The urgency of the bridge works was highlighted by major Avatiu and Muri floods in April 2018 and November 2019, and by more Ngatangiia flooding this month.
And the opportunity came with the tourist downturn caused by the Covid-19 border closures.
Motorists have been patiently detouring around the back of Avarua for nearly six months, while Landholdings builds a new $3.6 million AvatiuPunanganui Market bridge.
The engineers promise it will be completed in a month.
RAPPA MP Albert Nicholas said he was happy with the progress of work, and engineer Ata Herman had confirmed the one-month timeframe to complete the work.
Nicholas acknowledged the frustration and impatience from the general public.
“But it is what it is,” he said. “It is a massive job.
“During construction other areas and jobs have been triggered that need work done and have been incorporated into the bridge project … it’s not just about the bridge.”
A water catchment is being built near the Pandanus petrol station to combat problems with damaging flooding, and a footpath will be constructed.
The previous bridge would clog up in big downpours, causing the river to break its banks and to flood businesses and homes in the area.
Calls from the community went unheard; until the devastating floods last year that prompted government’s attention to fix the problem.
Local contractor Landholdings Limited started the project in March – to widen the bridge and improve the surrounding drainage system.
Meanwhile in Muri, the destructive impact of the devastating floods in April 2018, gouging out big chunks of land, strengthened the community’s drive to tackle the drainage system in the area.
Ngatangiia MP Tamaiva Tuavera said he was pleased that one of the four bridge projects in the village had started. “Plans for the bridge in Muri near the store are to widen the structure to allow the water to flow through – the idea is to dig a causeway emergency outlet to take the overflow of floods.”
When floodwater outlets are blocked and the water cannot continue its path to the sea, the surrounding landscape is ravaged.
“The destruction from floods is devastating,” Tuavera said.
“Hopefully we will see less flooding this way.”
There is an initiative too, to beautify the swampy area behind Rima’s bakery and takeaway store, to better use the area and transform it into a resting place where people can have lunch and admire nature, Tuavera added.
GIO Contractors Limited have commenced reinforced structure work at the Turangi bridge in Ngatangiia, and the company expects this project be completed in the next two weeks.
Starting dates are yet to be confirmed for the bridges at Avana, Pacific Resort and the Muri Outlet store, and the culvert at Aroko is also due for an overhaul.
Tuavera said the bridge work was being done before the proper tar-sealing of the main road started.