Waipuku Stream Bridge

Marton-New Plymouth Line, Waipuku Stream, Tariki

  • Waipuku Stream Bridge.
    Copyright: Raymond McNickle. Taken By: Raymond McNickle.
  • Waipuku Stream Bridge.
    Copyright: Raymond McNickle. Taken By: Raymond McNickle.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 878 Date Entered 1st September 1983


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Railway Land, Taranaki Land District, and the structure known as Waipuku Stream Bridge thereon, including its abutments and piers. Refer to the extent map tabled at the Rārangi Kōrero meeting on 9 November 2017.

City/District Council

New Plymouth District, Stratford District


Taranaki Region

Legal description

Railway Land, Taranaki Land District

Location description

The Waipuku Stream Railway Overbridge is located on the Waipuku Stream between two road bridges serving Mountain Road (SH 3) and Old Mountain Road, north of Tariki.


The Waipuku Stream Bridge was originally constructed in 1879 and subsequently modified as a result of floods and vandalism. This bridge has historic significance as a vestige of New Zealand’s peak rail construction period. The structure’s subsequent modifications, representing common materials of their era, are evidence of its ongoing importance within this railway which has contributed significantly to Taranaki’s society and economy.

In the 1870s, building a Taranaki railway was seen as way of furthering European settlement in the province. During this period New Zealand had its first surge of railway construction due to Julius Vogel’s (1835–99) public works and immigration policy. Constructed in this boom period, the railway south from New Plymouth was the North Island’s first extensive railway project and reached Stratford by 1879. The Waipuku Stream Bridge was built as part of Public Works Department railway project, which resulted in efficient transport but also increased settlement and communications.

The bridge’s original main contractor was David Glendinning of Auckland, who was awarded the bridge contract in mid-1878 and was responsible for several of the railway’s other bridges. A local mason, Alexander MacDonald appears to have been a sub-contractor, beginning work on the stone elements in early 1879. The current bridge features the distinctive masonry piers and arches of the original construction. Its original 80 foot (24.4m) long under-strutted timber truss was replaced 1911 with the current intermediate concrete pier and two 40 foot (12.2m) steel plate girder spans. Recesses for the truss’s struts can be seen in the face of the masonry piers. The bridge is 38m long and stands 9.5m above the stream bed.

The Waipuku Stream Bridge has had a colourful history of risk, including guards being stationed there during 1886 bush fires to protect this vital feature within the railway. It also seems to have been pushed ‘out of alignment’ during severe flooding in 1935, which destroyed several other bridges in the vicinity and ‘completely disorganised railways communication throughout Taranaki’. However, perhaps the biggest threat to the bridge was in 1966. Considerable repairs, estimated at £6,500, were required after two local men in their twenties ‘decided to blow up the bridge’. The blast was heard in Stratford and ‘ripped out a section of the bridge’. Luckily, the railcar which triggered the detonator did not derail and, although the people aboard were understandably shaken, no one was injured. The culprits were quickly arrested and duly convicted, maintaining they were only intent on property damage and not harming anyone.

The Waipuku Stream Bridge is among the oldest railway bridges on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero (the List) and was one of the first added to the List. It is comparable with other contemporary railway bridges on the List, including Railway Bridge (Blair), Category 2 historic place (List No.5207). Although on a larger scale, this South Island example also features an original masonry abutment and has been considerably modified. The Rimutaka Incline Rail Trail’s (List No.7511) Ladle Bend and Pakuratahi River bridges, constructed circa 1876, are similar in size and materials to the Waipuku Stream Bridge, except they are timber truss bridges. Unlike the Waipuku Stream Bridge, these examples are no longer used for their original purpose.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Public Works Department

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

David Glendinning

Contractor for the Waipuku Stream Bridge, Tariki - 1879

Alexander MacDonald

Contractor for the Waipuku Stream Bridge, Tariki - 1879

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

1911 -
Timber truss replaced by intermediate concrete pier and steel spans

- 1935
Flood damage repaired

- 1966
Explosion damage repaired

Original Construction
1879 -

Completion Date

22nd September 2017

Report Written By

Karen Astwood

Information Sources

Bromby, 2003

Robin Bromby. Rails that Built a Nation. An Encyclopedia of New Zealand Railways. Grantham House. 2003

Thornton, 2001

Geoffrey Thornton, Bridging the Gap, Early Bridges in New Zealand 1830-1939, Auckland, 2001

Hoskin, 2005

Hoskin, Sorrell, ‘Rail Relief – New Plymouth’s first railway’, Puke Ariki, 21 Jan 2005, http://pukeariki.com/Learning-Research/Taranaki-Research-Centre/Taranaki-Stories/Taranaki-Story/id/667/title/rail-relief-new-plymouths-first-railway

Other Information

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Central Region Office of Heritage New Zealand.