Ohau Road Bridge

Old Iron Bridge Road, Twizel

  • Ohau Road Bridge, Twizel. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Joe Wallace. Taken By: Joe Wallace. Date: 21/02/2019.
  • Ohau Road Bridge, Twizel. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Shellie Evans. Taken By: Shellie Evans – flyingkiwigirl. Date: 25/05/2015.
  • Ohau Road Bridge, Twizel. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Joe Wallace. Taken By: Joe Wallace. Date: 21/02/2019.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1965 Date Entered 25th June 2004


City/District Council

Mackenzie District


Canterbury Region

Legal description

Crown land (under action) SO 15709, Canterbury Land District. (Currently no CT or gazette notice available)

Location description

Registration Includes: The bridge on its site.


In the early years of New Zealand's exploration and settlement many people drowned attempting to cross rivers. On main routes when accommodation houses were erected by river crossings the Provincial Governments made it a condition of the license holder that he assisted people to cross. Over the years various ferries, punts, cable ways, etc. were utilised before bridges could be provided.

The crossing of the Ohau River on the route through the Mackenzie County between Lake Tekapo and Omarama (now State Highway 8) was eased initially by provision of a cableway. In 1889 the Waitaki County Council, aided by a 50% grant from the Mackenzie County Council, decided to build a road bridge. The bridge was probably designed by Waitaki County Council Engineer Charles Banks. The metal work was fabricated in Dunedin, and erected by R. and S. Sparrow under the direction of works manager Edward Roberts - later a private consultant engineer renowned as a designer of gold dredges. The total cost was £1,033 and 7 shillings.

In the 1970s when the upper Waitaki Hydro scheme was constructed and Lake Ruataniwha was formed, the State Highway was realigned bypassing the historic bridge. It now just provides a route to the former river bed and forms an additional "scenic attraction".

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

It has historical significance for its role in improving transport links through the Mackenzie Country.

The former Ohau Road Bridge has technological significance as an intact example of a nineteenth century deck arch road bridge.

(a) it represents the formation of a reliable and comprehensive transport infrastructure throughout New Zealand in the late Victorian period, a factor integral to the country's economic development.

(g) It is a technically accomplished and rare example of an intact Victorian single-span deck-arch road bridge. It was regarded to be of sufficient importance to the community to be retained when bypassed by a new highway.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Banks, Charles

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

A single-span deck-arch bridge, with a clear span of 36.5 metres and an overall length of 41.5 metres. It is single lane width and has heavy river stone abutments.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1889 -

Construction Details

Steel arch, with a timber balustrade and decking.

Completion Date

3rd September 2004

Report Written By

Pam Wilson

Information Sources

Mackenzie District Council

Mackenzie District Council


New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust

NZHPT Building Record Form

Thornton, 2001

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

p. 245.

Other Information

The bridge was formerly on State Highway 8, but this highway was realigned after the Ruataniwha Dam was built and the bridge now covers a section of lake water at the termination of Old Iron Bridge Road (See plans in Registration Report).

A fully referenced version of this report is available from the NZHPT Southern Region Office.

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.