Peel Street Bridge

Peel Street, Gisborne

  • Peel Street, Bridge.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Damian Skinner. 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 3569 Date Entered 5th April 1984


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Pt Sec 25-26 Blk III Turanganui SD (CT GS5B/1247), Pt Lot 25 DP 7819 (CT GS5B/1147), Gisborne Land District and the structure known as Peel Street Bridge thereon.

City/District Council

Gisborne District


Gisborne Region

Legal description

Pt Sec 25-26 Blk III Turanganui SD (CT GS5B/1247); Pt Lot 25 DP 7819 (CT GS5B/1147), Gisborne Land District


A sign of civic pride and optimism in the city's future, the reinforced concrete Peel Street Bridge, which crosses the Taruheru River in the city centre of Gisborne, was opened on the 24 November 1923. It replaced a wooden bridge built in 1882 by the New Zealand Land Settlement Company, largely through the efforts of W. L. Rees, a local businessman and Borough Councillor. According to J.A. Mackay, 'It was called “Rees's Folly” because it was believed that Whataupoko was so far out of town that it would not attract residents.' Rees's Folly was a one way bridge and by the 1920s it was unable to cope with the increased traffic flow.

A proposal was made to replace Rees's Folly with a reinforced concrete bridge 'of plain and substantial character', with the bridge's designer, Borough engineer J.A. McDonald estimating the cost of a suitable ferro-concrete bridge to be £28,000.

This 420 foot long, 40 foot wide bridge was constructed in nine spans using reinforced concrete girders resting on octagonal piles. At the Reads Quay corner of the bridge, a set of concrete steps adjoining the rail end runs down onto the esplanade reserve were designed as part of the bridge structure. The contractor was Mr Fred Goodman, who had been associated with the construction of Grafton Road Bridge in Auckland.

Opened with great fanfare in November 1923 by the Mayor, Mr George Wildish, the Peel Street Bridge was celebrated as the first and only permanent public work in Gisborne, and an investment in the future prosperity and prospects of the town. Flags and streamers decorated the bridge and shops and were festooned with coloured lights in the evening, described as a ‘Fairyland' scene to be remembered.

In 1977 the concrete handrails were removed and replaced with galvanised steel rails to increase the visibility for motorists and to reduce the dead load on the bridge. At the same time repairs were made to spalling (damage from water absorption in the concrete) on the bridge structure.

The Peel Street Bridge is historically significant because of its role in the development of Gisborne's transport and communications systems, and the development of the Whataupoko and Mangapapa areas. It is a good 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 Peel Street 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

Original Construction
1919 - 1923

1977 -
Concrete handrails removed and replaced with galvanised steel rails

1977 -
Repairs made to spalling (water damage to concrete fabric of bridge)

Completion Date

21st June 2010

Report Written By

Damian Skinner, Gail Henry, Linda Pattison

Information Sources

Mackay, 1949

J A Mackay, Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z, Gisborne, 1949.

Poverty Bay Herald

Poverty Bay Herald

15 Aug 1933, 22 Oct 1919

Thornton, 2001

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

Gisborne Times

Gisborne Times

26 Nov 1923

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.