WITT students building bridges in Taranaki’s nature zones

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Improving access to natural spaces by building bridges is how a group of students enrolled in WITT’s trades academy has been making a difference in the community.

The high school students recently built a replacement bridge at Barrett’s Domain. They are also upgrading footbridges at Kowhai Park in Inglewood and Pukekura Park. The students and tutors attended a blessing ceremony for the bridge led by kaumatua Hoani Eriwata, of Ngāti Te Whiti.

Next projects planned are replacing the jetty at Lake Rotomanu and a footbridge at TOPEC (Taranaki Outdoor Pursuits and Education Centre). 

The group of nine 15 to 17-year-olds from Taranaki high schools are part of the Trades Academy’s Build a Bridge programme, now in its fourth year.

Jan Kivell, short course tutor and programme manager for the New Zealand Institute of Highway Technology (NZIHT) at WITT says, “Civil infrastructure industry needs to attract more younger people to this trade.  This is initiative was designed to introduce students to civil infrastructure.”

Students complete 23 Level 2 NCEA credits.  “Some of our students from previous years have gained full time employment after completing this course,” she says.

The current cohort started in February. Students attend the academy for practical learning every Thursday during terms one to three. The bridges are built on campus at the academy workshop and transported to the sites where they are installed.

 “They use small hand tools for construction such as saws, drills, hammers, drop saw.  They will also learn how to maintain small machinery used on infrastructure worksites, such as generators, chainsaws, compactors,” Jan says.

Programme is supported by the New Plymouth District Council – which identifies where footbridges need replacing - and local contractors, including Fulton Hogan.

Caption: Students and tutors at Barrett Domain for a blessing of the bridge they built across a stream at the nature reserve.

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