Hard to know where to begin, it’s been such a mammoth cupladaze! Last night we were put up in three different places on Gore Bay Rd and had a wonderful shared meal with everyone in a wool shed with a gas heater blowing while it rained outside. No internet or phone coverage there so no blog and suddenly feels like we’re way behind!
Of course you would have seen the stuff article where the above photo comes from, so hope you got some idea of where we were and what was happening. It was a funny turn of events that lead to crossing the railway bridge.
Shane and I had found the pedestrian footbridge at the end of the reccy mish the day before, quite by accident… an amazingly strong & well-maintained, wide, hand-railed pedestrian walkway across the river! Just what we needed! Better than using a pilot vehicle to escort our hikoi wahine over the 100kph road bridge by far. No signs saying not to use it, no gates, and two what look like viewing platforms spaced out along it. Perfect for walkers! Although it hadn’t escaped our notice that there was a train track right next to it.
On these scouting missions, reconnoitring the next day’s walk, there are many questions and decisions raised and taken, weighing up, working out, coming up with plans about how best to mitigate the risks of the road. Of course there are risks, big ones, and I guess this is part of the reason for doing it – to show a very strong commitment. Because the TPPA is bloody dangerous too.
There is an old road running next to the train track which is the old Parnassus main road which takes you back onto the state highway just past the railway overbridge. By taking this route we could eliminate two major hotspots on the hikoi in one. Of course we would have to be fairly certain that no trains would be coming to judge this route as the safer option.
And when it comes to safer options, yes of course not doing it at all is the safest choice. That is not in dispute. But in order to retain the integrity of a walk to Parliament from Christchurch, we can’t just jump in the support vehicles every time something gets a touch tricky, otherwise that would be almost all the time and we might as well just drive there. (Although catching the train might be better.)
So we called Kiwirail and found out the train times. It was clear that we had a big window of opportunity. We also knew that of course we shouldn’t be walking across the train bridge, that it would not be OSHified and that if we did, we could potentially get into trouble.
But after a lot of discussion with the group we finally decided we would go for it. About an hour from the end of our 20km day, we scooted into the entrance to the old road and walked up to the railway bridge. As we got onto the bridge we saw a man in hi-viz back where we had come from, and a bit later a ute driving up towards us. We were onto the bridge by now and started walking down the five-sleeper-wide walkway. We heard the car tooting and someone yelling at us. We were about a quarter of the way across. I looked back and saw the two guys coming towards us. It was a bit like a movie scene! What would they do in the movies?!
I left the others marching on ahead and went back to stall them.
“Have you got permission to be on this bridge?” one of them asked me sternly.
“No we haven’t” I said.
“Well get them all off the bridge, you’re not allowed on there.”
I said “I’m sorry but we’re not going to do that. We’ve rung Kiwirail to check out the train times, we’ve put it in our safety plan which gets sent to the police, NZTA and others, we’ve assessed that the footbridge is sturdy…. And this is a protest walk! From Christchurch to Wellington. We’re not asking for permission, we are breaking rules, this is civil disobedience.”
He said…. “Okay…. but don’t take too long.”
Kiwirail called me today and tried to tell me off and for the first time in my life I refused to be told off. I said I couldn’t give an assurance that we wouldn’t use the railway networks again and as I said that, I reminded myself of a politician, not being able to give a 100% assurance that New Zealand would never be sued by a Trans National Corporation under the TPP.
Yes it’s dangerous. But at least we admit it.