NZ Defence Force, Downer help Transport Agency rebuild Waiho River Bailey bridge


The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) and construction company Downer are working together to help rebuild South Westland’s Waiho River Bailey bridge, washed away by rock-filled floodwaters last week, says NZ Transport Agency System Manager, Pete Connors.

“Having Army engineers working with the Downer team means we have highly experienced Bailey bridge construction people on this project to ensure there will be no delays when we are ready to launch the bridge from the south side to the north,” says Mr Connors.

“Supporting the Bailey bridge team on both sides of the river are numerous sub-contractors doing sterling work, alongside our highway maintenance team on the West Coast, Fulton Hogan, and WSP-Opus designing the new pier and abutments and other aspects of this bridge construction.”

The 18 Army engineers are deployed for the duration of the project, says Lieutenant Colonel Terry McDonald, the Commanding Officer of the 2nd Engineer Regiment.

“It is great to contribute our professional expertise to support Government agencies in responding to communities that need our assistance,” says Lieutenant Colonel Terry McDonald.

“Collaboration is the key to getting the network reconnected for the local community,” says Downer’s South Island General Manager Scott Ford. “We are very aware this is an important bridge connecting Franz Josef and Haast Pass, but through the relationships and support of local subcontractors and the NZDF, we have the right people on the ground to get the job done as safely and as quickly as possible.”

The Transport Agency has taken the timeline for the bridge replacement to 12 April, which includes rebuilding the damaged pier on the north side, rebuilding the damaged abutments on each side of the river and safely removing the spans of the bridge which were not washed away last week.

The Transport Agency’s Bailey bridge installation experts, Downer, have worked previously with the Defence Force on Bailey bridge constructions around New Zealand. In this instance, they will be reconstructing a seven-span Bailey bridge over the Waiho River. A Bailey bridge is a type of portable, pre-fabricated truss bridge developed by the British for military use during World War II.  

Once completed, the new 170-metre Waiho Bridge is believed to be one of the longest Bailey bridges which Army engineers will have been involved in constructing since World War II, Lieutenant Colonel McDonald says.

“We know how important a link this bridge is in the South Island and for the businesses in South Westland. It is heartening to see the strong co-operation at this level to restore this essential link for this community,” says Mr Connors.

Stay up to date

Please see the project page  or updates and travel advice, photos of the work underway:

Daily timelapse videos of the construction of the new bridge will be added to the website. The camera is on the north side of the river but points across to the Bailey bridge construction side.

Both Franz Josef and Fox Glacier townships are open for business and people can still access the glaciers via helicopter/ flight once they are there.