The popular Ohakune Old Coach Road, opened in 2009, has helped to transform Ohakune tourism. Around 20,000 visitors annually enjoy the 18m ride or walk between Horopito and Ohakune that blends heritage and nature. The highlight is the massive Hapuawhenua railway viaduct 284m long and 45m (9 stories) high. This historic viaduct follows a graceful curve through a rimu forest setting.
This week the Department of Conservation arranged for a condition inspection of the paint work on this massive steel structure. This task is done by three specialist abseiling technicians who work for SRG Global. They inspect the condition of the existing paint job, note where paint repairs are required, and spot steel corrosion issues. The rust colour visible in the images is a surface lichen.
The viaduct has a New Zealand Category One heritage rating. This condition inspection will be used to guide investment decisions on maintenance and repairs. Abseil work is not for the faint-hearted; it involves wearing a 15 kg full harness and dangling on abseil ropes. A safe week on ropes involves identifying hazards and controlling risks. This trio have experience and IRATA training.
The 45m working height is far from a personal record. Rob Leeks holds a special memory of lunch with a limitless view 170m above the Indian Ocean, on an offshore oil installation. Siva Pierard's peak ascent is checking the top of Auckland Sky Tower at 328m. This job offered more thrills than the gaming machines inside the Tower. Ben said that dropping over the side of the viaduct reminded him of the first-ever Hackett bungy jump operation, that started right here in 1993.
Rob comments that the ‘modest’ 45m height at Hapuawhenua requires just as much care. Beyond a certain height the consequences of a fall are all the same. We note that a few visitors today find venturing to the middle of the viaduct too high for comfort. Not their choice for a day job.
Paul Mahoney : Senior Heritage Advisor
Department of Conservation
Version 23 June 2021