WORKSAFE NZ and engineers inspecting the Hopuruahine suspension bridge at Lake Waikaremoana expect to have their investigation into the bridge collapse complete within a week.
Four French tourists were slightly injured when a cable on the bridge released last Thursday and they toppled from the bridge, falling eight metres into the river. “Our French trampers leave Waikaremoana shaken but thankfully without major injury,” said the chairman of Te Urewera Board Tamati Kruger. “We are grateful to a local operator, Mr Simpson, who was on hand to transport the trampers to our Te Urewera team, where they were looked after.”
The board then urgently convened a response team headed by group manager Onukurangi Willie Shaw and consisting of Tuhoe and DoC senior management. “The board, Tuhoe and the Department of Conservation are taking the incident extremely seriously,” Mr Kruger said. “The response plan involves up to 10 people overseeing the welfare of our trampers and investigating the incident. “There is a 10-day timeframe in place to complete the investigation.”
Both DoC and the board would be undertaking separate and independent health and safety reviews of the incident, he said. “We will continue to want to know how the French trampers are in the days and weeks to come and we are planning to inform them of the investigation outcome once complete.” Mr Kruger said five key priorities had been established.
“The welfare of manuhiri is paramount. To ensure that all other Great Walk Lake Waikaremoana critical structures are verified safe, we want an engineering determination of fault with the Hopuruahine bridge and we will undertake an independent health and safety review. “The final priority is to support our frontline team to manage every eventuality, particularly enabling their ability to deliver care to our manuhiri.”
Mr Kruger said importantly the Te Urewera team and DoC engineers had completed inspecting the other six structures on the walk. “They can verify their safe condition for continued use.”
The Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk remains open from Onepoto Road end to Whanganui Hut. “Until further notice, Waikaremoana Great walk is to be walked in one direction, only starting from Onepoto.
“Water taxi pick-up has been arranged from Whanganui Hut at 2pm daily.”
For further information on the Lake Waikaremoana walk, contact Te Urewera Visitor Centre 06 837 3803.