Contractors will be will be increasing the number of workers to try and make up for lost time after toxic roading material, bundles of data cabling and Argentine ants slowed progress during the first stage of the Queen St redevelopment.
The $11million upgrade, which started on February 7, is designed to increase the capacity of stormwater pipes and direct water away from buildings to prevent flooding which devastated the town in 2011 and 2913. Water pipes and telecommunications and power services are also being replaced and the streetscape modernised to create a more pedestrian-friendly space for the community.
However, Tasman District Council programme delivery manager Russell McGuigan says they are already four weeks behind schedule with the completion of the first stage at the lower end of Queen St now extended to late June.
The start of stage two has also been delayed by four weeks and will now commence in mid-June and Russell says the contractor Downer is now taking steps to play catch-up.
Russell says the first stage was always going to be the most challenging but contractors have hit even more in-ground problems than expected which “means we have moved slower than anticipated”.
“We found a road under the road and we had to stop for a while and get the soil tested because in those days they used a more toxic material. We had an expert look at it and some parts were toxic cold tar so we made sure people were properly protected and wore breathing apparatus.
“We’ve also encountered nests of Argentine ants and had to get experts in to exterminate and remove and dispose of them as well. There’s also been lot of Chorus data cables and it’s been a very delicate operation to unearth replace and lower them and then put new ducting in for future cables but that work has been completed ahead of time which is good news.”
Russell says Downer will now be “bringing in extra crew” to advance the installation of the stormwater pipe ahead of the main boxed construction stages. The contractor is already working on the footpaths during the night to minimise disruption to businesses.
“The best way to make up time is to advance the stormwater pipe because that gives us two work fronts so we can go faster. It also means that every time we find an object it won’t stop everything and we’ll be able to continue working.”
Russell also expects stages two to five to be easier than the first stage because “we have found all the things we can possibly find so now we have a whole lot of solutions.” In addition, the next four stages should be “less complicated” because they have fewer underground data cables and don’t require such intricate road profiling.
“It’s still going to be a big challenge and I still can’t say when we will be back on schedule. We will have a better idea when we have completed stage two because stage two will be repeated up the road and that will give us a good indication.”
Richmond Unlimited’s Belinda de Clercq says Queen St retailers and businesses expressed concern at the delays at a meeting last week. She says they are pleased the contractor is taking steps to “hopefully speed up the process” to minimise the impact of the work on businesses.
Belinda says Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce chief executive Grant Kerr and representatives of the Nelson Tasman Business Trust Sarah Holmes and Bill Bratt also attended the meeting to “see how they could help.”
“There was good sharing of information with ideas about how to promote your business through marketing and social media so it was quite a positive meeting. Richmond Unlimited is looking at all the different ways we can support our members. so it was good to get some new ideas.”