Tauranga Bridge

Waioeka Road (State Highway 2), Waioeka Gorge, Okiore

  • Tauranga Bridge.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 1/09/2003.
  • Tauranga Bridge.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 1/09/2003.
  • Tauranga Bridge.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 1/09/2003.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 7221 Date Entered 3rd March 1995

Locationopen/close

City/District Council

Opotiki District

Region

Bay of Plenty Region

Legal description

Sec 1 SO 8858 (NZ Gazette 1999, p.1253), Waioeka River, and Road Reserve Waioeka Road, Gisborne Land District

Summaryopen/close

Located in the scenic Waioeka Valley, the Tauranga Bridge is a rare remaining example of a multiple rope, or 'harp' suspension bridge in New Zealand. It was probably constructed in late 1922, replacing an earlier bridge across the Waioeka River. The timber bridge was part of major road-making efforts in the steep-sided valley, which provided access to farms as well as ultimately supplying better communications between the Bay of Plenty and Poverty Bay. Improvements to infrastructure were essential for the early twentieth-century farmers in the area, who struggled to make an income due to difficulties with poor soil, heavy rainfall and steep terrain.

The Tauranga Bridge gave access from the main Waioeka thoroughfare to a side branch extending up the Tauranga Valley. Farmed by several settler families, this area had been divided into mostly 607-hectare (1500-acre) sections by the Crown and offered by ballot in 1906. The Crown had obtained the land in the late 1800s, with previous Maori cultivation alongside the Waioeka River encompassing a settlement at Waipuna Pa, adjacent to the bridge site. Struggling with difficult conditions from an early stage, the settlers' problems were compounded in 1918, when a flood swept away the first suspension bridge across the river. As a temporary measure, a traverse was created using a cage suspended on a wire, described at the time as 'a brute of a crossing'. Its replacement was initially intended to be a stock bridge, but was modified following the intervention of the mayor of Opotiki, George Moody (c.1872-1967), who had purchased land in the valley in 1919. Moody persuaded the local authorities to create a structure large enough for vehicles, enabling him to remove timber from the area more freely.

Probably constructed after June 1922 for Opotiki County Council, the bridge was designed by the Public Works Department (PWD). It had a single span of 57.8 metres between two gantry-like towers, from which six metal cables on each side were suspended. The timber superstructure was built exclusively of hardwood, imported from Australia. Multiple rope suspension bridges were first used in New Zealand in 1878, and were an adaptation of British designs utilising American cable wire technology. Widely employed until about 1930, this technology was probably also used for a number of smaller bridges in the immediate vicinity, including the Tauranga Stream and Oponae Stock Bridges, which were designed by the PWD in 1914. The Tauranga Bridge was erected by Percy Kerr, who carried out other road-building tasks in the Waioeka. Following the abandonment of farms serviced by the bridge in the late 1920s and the dwindling use of nearby properties in subsequent years, the structure gradually fell into disrepair. It was the subject of major conservation work by the Department of Conservation in the mid 1990s, allowing access to the Tauranga walking track as part of the Waioeka Gorge Scenic Reserve.

Tauranga Bridge is nationally significant as one of possibly three remaining multiple rope suspension bridges in New Zealand, and the only survivor designed for vehicle access. It reflects a tradition of adapting overseas technology and design for use in New Zealand. The bridge is closely linked with farming and environmental history in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, and is particularly associated with government settlement policies in the early 1900s and their ultimate failure in the Waioeka. The bridge is considered to have strong aesthetic qualities, based on its well-balanced design and its location in an attractive reach of the Waioeka River. It is part of a broader historic and cultural landscape that incorporates Waipuna pa, remnants of roads and other features in the Tauranga Valley. It is one of at least two recognised historic bridges in the Waioeka Valley.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Recommendation for Registration considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of

registration.

Tauranga Bridge is a place associated with the rehabilitation of returned servicemen from the First World War, and is a memorial to their efforts to improve their situation.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Recommendation for Registration considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of

registration.

Aesthetic:

Tauranga Bridge occupies and enhances an attractive reach of the Waioeka River. The multi-rope system of the bridge evenly supports the structure with a balanced design displaying aesthetic qualities.

Architectural:

The bridge demonstrates the development of New Zealand suspension bridge technology in the period c.1878-1930, and represents a local application of overseas wire rope construction technology.

Technological:

The use in New Zealand of the overseas technique of wire cable suspension was an innovation which proved to be both aesthetically pleasing in design and extremely durable in construction.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Recommendation for Registration considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of

registration.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place:

The Tauranga Bridge is a single span multi rope type suspension bridge, commonly referred to as an "harp" suspension bridge. It was designed in 1916-18 and built around 1921, according to local oral sources.

Prior to the use of the wire rope cable technique, bridges in New Zealand were of English wrought iron multi-rod construction. The wire rope cable technique had been in use for a relatively short time in France and America before first being used in New Zealand in the Kawarau Bridge in 1878-80. This technique proved to be both aesthetically pleasing and technologically durable in construction. In Tauranga Bridge, the Public Works engineers adapted the use of steel rope to the English multi-rod system, which reveals a high degree of innovation by New Zealand engineers using an American initiative in the development of steel rope suspension bridge construction.

(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places:

Although once apparently common, the number of surviving multi-rope bridges in new Zealand is very small. Tauranga Bridge's rarity is further enhanced by its technological interest, being a New Zealand adaptation of an English design, using American techniques and innovations.

Conclusion:

Tauranga Bridge, Bay of Plenty, is recommended for registration as a Category I historic place as a place of special and outstanding historical and cultural heritage significance and value. Its shows great technological significance, being a New Zealand adaptation of an English design, using American techniques and innovations. This technique of using wire rope cables proved to be both aesthetically pleasing and technologically durable in construction.

Linksopen/close

Construction Professionalsopen/close

Public Works Department

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Public Works Department

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Kerr, Percy

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Other
-
Site of Waipuna Pa

Other
1906 -
Construction of first bridge, destroyed by flood in 1918

Other
1918 -
Temporary crossing

Original Construction
1922 - 1924
Construction of current bridge

Modification
1994 - 1996
Major repairs to bridge superstructure

Completion Date

27th June 2007

Report Written By

Martin Jones and Shirley Arabin

Information Sources

Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives (AJHR)

Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives

1921, B-7A, p.45; 1922 B-7A, p.46; 1922, D-1, p.36; & 1923, B-7A, p.47

Department of Conservation

Department of Conservation

Pam Bain, 'Conservation of the Tauranga Bridge, Waioeka Gorge, Bay of Plenty', Department of Conservation report, Gisborne, 1998

Spencer, 1992

Margaret Spencer, The Waioeka Pioneering Saga, Gisborne, 1992

Thornton, 2001

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

Frampton, 1985

K Frampton, Modern Architecture, a Critical History. Thames & Hudson, London, 1985

World of Art Series, 1985. Ch. 3,

pp 29-33

Conservation Plan

Conservation Plan

Chris Cochran, 'Tauranga Bridge, Waioeka River: Conservation Plan', Wellington, 1991 (copy held by NZHPT, Auckland); Anita Hogan, 'The Tauranga Bridge and Tauranga Valley Settlement, Waioeka Gorge, Bay of Plenty', unpublished Department of Conservation report, Gisborne, 1996 (copy held by NZHPT, Auckland)

National Geographic

National Geographic

Morris, J.G. A Century Old, the Wonderful Brooklyn Bridge. National Geographic, Vol. 163, No 5, May 1983, pp. 565-579

Other Information

A copy of the original report is available from the NZHPT Northern 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.