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Removal of Te Reinga Bridge colossal team effort

The pull canva

The scale of work to remove flood-damaged Te Reinga Bridge near Wairoa this week is unlike anything else Quality Roading and Services and other contractors have ever worked on.

The 300 tonne Te Reinga Bridge was collapsed into the river on Monday [12 June] and has now been winched up out of the water.

“The specialist operators overseeing this part of the programme believe it could be the heaviest pull that has ever been done in New Zealand,” says QRS construction manager Mike Wilson.

Te Reinga Bridge was damaged in heavy rain during March 2022 and closed to heavy traffic. Then, in February 2023, the bridge was severely compromised during Cyclone Gabrielle when its middle pier washed away. With no bridge, Ruakituri residents must travel two hours to Wairoa – a trip that would normally take half an hour.

QRS is managing the project to remove flood-damaged Te Reinga Bridge before a temporary Bailey bridge is installed.  Dozens of professionals are involved including specialist dive teams, demolition experts, towing and crane operators, welders, and piling and bridging contractors. Wairoa District Council is directing the project with guidance from WSP engineers.

It’s the most complex project many of us have ever been involved in, says Mr Wilson.

“The pulling was made complex by the sheer weight of the structure as well as continuously changing load paths, difficult ground conditions, and damaged bridge components.” Mr Wilson says the desire to look after people’s safety and the whenua was paramount. “All of us have worked together well and have taken a shared, careful, measured approach. We’ve created practical, workable solutions for every new situation.”

The bridge is estimated to weigh 300 tonnes, the same as a Boeing 747 aircraft. Contractors had already removed parts of its concrete deck to make the bridge lighter. Then crews then demolished one of its last two remaining piers. Remarkably, says Mr Wilson, the bridge stayed in place on one pier with each end nestled into the bank. “It is a testament to the designers and contractors from the 1970s that the bridge required so much force from cyclones and eventually a hydraulic excavator to get it down.”

Te Reinga Bridge was successfully collapsed into the riverbed just before lunch on Monday 12 June. “It was an incredible moment,” adds Mr Wilson.  By Thursday afternoon operators in seven tow trucks had successfully winched the bridge up out of the water. Mr Wilson likened the towing and winching operation to that of an orchestra. “The heavy machinery operators worked together to make sure the pulling was even and precise. It’s a credit to the professionals involved.”

Around 60 people, eight excavators, seven tow trucks, and four bulldozers were on site every day this week. The bridge will now be cut into pieces, removed, and recycled.  Staging platforms on either side of the river are being built so that a 42m Bailey bridge can be constructed across the gap.

Contractors working onsite recently included Lattey Group, Ward Demolition, Bay Underwater Services, Gisborne Hiabs, Rowe Motors, Ace Heavy Haulage, and IBA Engineering. 

16 June 2023

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Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini. My strength is not mine alone, it is the strength of many.

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