Council considers quirky crossing

This pretty and popular little bridge is falling apart and may be replaced with a more basic version.

The fairytale of the Billy Goats Gruff is being played out in suburban Tauranga.

In a real-life, but loose adaption, the mean ‘who’s that tripping over my bridge’ Troll is played by the out of character Tauranga City Council.

And the three Billy Goats Gruff crossing the bridge to fatten themselves on the lush pasture beyond, are played by some disgruntled people of Matua.

The central but non-speaking role of the bridge is played by the quaint little stone bridge in Kiriwai Place Reserve in Matua. That’s the cast, now the synopsis.

“We are writing to tell you of our plan to replace the bridge,” says the Tauranga City Council in a letter to residents. “The existing bridge has been affected by coastal erosion that has caused the abutments – each end of the bridge – to badly deteriorate.” Take a close look at the bridge - it’s completely knackered. And so the TCC has decided to replace the bridge with a flat wooden deck and move it further back from where it is now.

To assist the understanding for Gruffs and help ease the way for a new bridge, the council’s parks asset co-ordinator, Craig Fea has written to them. “Please note, the bridge is 25-years-old and not a heritage structure.” Maybe not, but residents still think it’s cute, looks historic, and is a favourite place to be.

On Facebook one resident exclaimed: “No,no,no! We must keep the gorgeous Irish bridge. My grand-daughter and I play Billy Goats Gruff on it when she comes to stay”. And there was a hint of direct action. “I will tape myself to the bridge and make them take it away one stone at a time.”

Another was more direct. “That’s just awful. What the hell is this drop-kick council thinking of?”

Well, in fairness, the council is thinking of cost-effectiveness rather than emotional attachment. “Due to the materials used in its construction, it would not be cost effective to make the current bridge safe or relocate it. We also consider that it would not be practical to address coastal erosion issues sufficiently to allow the bridge to stay where it is.”

One commenter moved from emotions to aesthetics. “A flat wooden bridge? Not sure it does anything for the aesthetics of the waterfront. We could do better.”

“Very sad”, “Oh, that’s sad” – and so the comments from the Gruffs went on. There was an image of a child in a stunning green tutu, her arms thrown skyward with excitement. “She absolutely loves Granny’s bridge,” said Granny. “Oh, the joy.”

The council plans to install the new 3.2-metre-wide wooden bridge about five metres back from the current location, sometime before July. 

Then the site of the stone bridge will be planted out with native coastal plants for both aesthetic and erosion control purposes. The proposed bridge has been designed to have the least visual impact on neighbours and users of the reserve.

The Gruffs can continue to ‘trip,trap,trip,trap’ across the stone bridge to the lush pasture beyond while the replacement bridge is being installed. It will be built off-site and installed in a week.

In the fairytale the big billy goat flew at the troll and poked his eyes out with his horns and “crushed him to bits, body and bones”.

But in our story the gore might be avoided because the troll is not so mean and hungry after all.

It’s a nice troll, a giving troll. A more recent communique from the council says it is listening to feedback and will consider, as one of the options, moving the concrete and stone bridge five metres back from its current location. There might be a new stone bridge.

But that’ll depend on a range of factors – feedback, the budget available to do this work alongside other projects that need to be done, as well as estimated costs.

And residents have been given until February 24 to comment on the proposals.

Then to true to the fairytale: “snip, snap, snout, this tale’s told out”.