Gladstone Road Bridge

Gladstone Road, Gisborne

  • Gladstone Road Bridge.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Date: 24/07/2009.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 3534 Date Entered 5th April 1984


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Pt Lot 5 DP 7819 (CT GS57/1127), Pt Lot 24 DP 7819 (CT GS5B/1146), Pt Sec 25-26 Blk III Turanganui SD (CT GS5B/1247) and Pt Lot 6 DP 2130 (CT GS55/294), Gisborne Land District and the structure known as Gladstone Road Bridge thereon and its abutments.

City/District Council

Gisborne District


Gisborne Region

Legal description

Pt Lot 5 DP 7819 (CT GS57/1127); Pt Lot 24 DP 7819 (CT GS5B/1146); Pt Sec 25-26 Blk III Turanganui SD (CT GS5B/1247) and Pt Lot 6 DP 2130 (CT GS55/294), Gisborne Land District

Location description

SH35 Wainui Road turns into Gladstone Road at the Turanganui River. Gladstone Bridge spans this river.


The Gladstone Road reinforced concrete bridge, was heralded as advanced technology and the sign of a progressive town by civic leaders, and provided an important link in State Highway 35, the route from Gisborne running up through the district's coastal towns and settlements. It crosses the Turanganui River in Gisborne's town centre. The bridge was opened on 26 March 1925, and replaced a wooden bridge built in 1885. By 1919 the Borough Council had begun discussing a replacement bridge. The Borough Engineer said that he did not think he could guarantee the bridge for one year, as some of the piles were already hanging. The condition of this existing bridge became more urgent in 1922, when the central span dropped over a foot in the middle of the day. By then the plans for a new bridge designed by McDonald had been drawn up. On 21 May 1923 a test pile from the Peel Street Bridge, then under construction, was driven into the Turanganui River by the Mayor, George Wildish.

The Gladstone Road Bridge is very similar to the Peel Street Bridge, opened in 1923 and also designed by J.A. McDonald, which Geoffrey Thornton describes as 'a straightforward and pleasing design'. The Gladstone Road Bridge has eight spans of reinforced concrete, which rest on octagonal piles. The round piers are joined into rows by a slightly narrower continuous concrete wall between them. The surface of the side of the bridge body is decorated by a concrete panelling effect, echoed by the concrete pedestrian rail above it. The handrail follows the bridge abutment onto the riverbanks and turns outward to create a smooth curve. The contractor was Mr Fred Goodman, who had been associated with the construction of Grafton Road Bridge in Auckland, and who was also responsible for building the Peel Street Bridge and subsequently the railway bridge which crosses the Turanganui River beside the Gladstone Road Bridge.

The opening of the bridge by the Mayor, George Wildish, on 26 March 1925, was a civic occasion of pomp and ceremony, and warmly greeted by the citizens and businesspeople of Kaiti, who had been inconvenienced by the old bridge's closure. As reported in the Gisborne Times, the Mayor said that 'The new bridge was a good a structure as could be found in the Dominion, and he was glad that Gisborne had been one of the first towns to realise that ferro-concrete structures were the best. Auckland had led the way with the Grafton bridge, but Gisborne had followed up with two fine and up-to-date structures.' This is somewhat of an exaggeration, since as Geoffrey Thornton notes, Taranaki was the first district to adopt reinforced concrete bridges on a large scale between 1904 and 1914, and by 1925 there were bridges of this kind all over the country. Still, it nicely reflects the pride and importance of the Gladstone Road Bridge as a symbol of progressive council policy and of the belief in Gisborne's bright future. The bridge was constructed with gas lighting in the form of standards, the gas-carrying pipes built into the bridge structure. The lamps were later removed and replaced by electrical streetlights. The tram rails, which were built into the bridge, have been covered over. The bridge was significantly modified in 1961 by extending the main beams, so they now run the full length of the abutments at each end of the bridge. Cracks in the abutments were repaired at the same time.

The Gladstone Road Bridge is historically significant because of its role in the development of Gisborne's transport and communications systems, and of Kaiti suburb. The bridge is an important link in State Highway 35, the route from Gisborne running up through the district's coastal towns and settlements. It is a significant example of reinforced concrete bridges, which began to be built in New Zealand in substantial numbers in the early twentieth century. As one of three bridges designed by J.A. McDonald that cross the Taruheru and Turanganui Rivers in the centre of Gisborne, the Gladstone Road Bridge makes a substantial contribution to the urban fabric of the city, and to the important role that rivers have played in the region's development.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Goodman, Frederick

English-born Frederick Goodman learnt his trade as a civil engineering contractor working on the four major concrete bridges in Auckland, including the Grafton Bridge and being the foreman of the Mangere Bridge contract, completed in 1915. In 1912-13 he constructed the Orakei sewerage outfall station for Auckland. In 1917 he moved to Gisborne to work on the Mangapoike pumping station. He was responsible for the construction of major structures in Gisborne, including Peel Street Bridge (Record no. 3569), Kaiti Bridge aka Gladstone Road Bridge (Record no. 3534) and the railway bridge (Record no. 3533), plus the middle section of the diversion wall for the harbour in Gisborne. Goodman was also involved in engineering work for the Otago Harbour Board in the early 1930s. He was involved with the construction of the 1935 improvements to the Earnscleugh Bridge in Central Otago (Record no. 2370). Fred Goodman died in 1946 at Napier.

McDonald, J

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

1925 -
Bridge opened

1961 -
Main beams extended

1961 -
Cracks in abutments repaired

Original Construction
1923 -
Construction began

Completion Date

21st June 2010

Report Written By

Damian Skinner, Gail Henry, Linda Pattison

Information Sources

Gisborne Herald

14 Dec 2012

'Progress with repairs to Gladstone Road bridge', 3 April 1961

Poverty Bay Herald

Poverty Bay Herald

16 Jul 1919, 9 Oct 1922

Thornton, 2001

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

Gisborne Times

Gisborne Times

22 May 1923, 27 Mar 1925

Other Information

A fully referenced report is available from the NZHPT Lower Northern Area 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.