McCormicks Creek Bridge

Palmerston-Dunback Road (State Highway 85), DUNBACK

Quick links:

McCormicks Creek Bridge, built in 1869 and located on State Highway 85 on the Palmerston-Dunback Road, is one of the last examples of the old coach bridges erected during Otago's golden era of prosperity. It is no use fighting against fate; we cannot resume our Arcadian simplicity; greatness is forced upon us, and we must adapt ourselves to the time. So warned the Otago Witness in the early days of the gold rush which was to transform Otago. Thousands of people flooded into the province; towns sprang up; as did banks, shops and hotels. The province soon became the wealthiest in New Zealand. With increased wealth and population came the need for infrastructure, including improved communications and transport. The preferred route to the goldfields was via Palmerston and then inland through the Shag Valley - the 'Pigroot' as it was known. The road was slowly improved over the 1860s and a number of bridges were built. In 1869 a graceful stone arch bridge was erected over McCormicks Creek, just outside the township of Dunback. Unusually for the time, it was made of local schist and it is a very early example of stone arch bridge building. The bridge spans ten metres over McCormicks Creek, and has prominent voussoirs (cut stones) which form the arch. There are also curved wing walls but the bridge is without a solid balustrade. By the 1950s the one way bridge was proving insufficiently wide and generally inadequate to meet increased traffic demand. A new bridge was proposed around 1957. In 1962 the state highway was realigned and a new bridge, known as Bowker's Bridge, was erected over the creek. Stones were removed from the old bridge's parapet to support the abutments of the new bridge. The current state of repair of McCormicks Creek Bridge is very poor and access has now been roped off. Even though the bridge has not been well maintained, the graceful span, the schist construction and the picturesque setting, all provide considerable aesthetic appeal. Architecturally, the bridge has special significance. Stone arch bridges of this age are relatively rare in New Zealand. It is also one of the last existing examples of coach bridges to be seen in Otago. It is not only the history of coaching that the bridge speaks to, but to the history of the whole province of Otago. The gold rush was integral to the development of the province in a myriad of ways, including infrastructure. Given the Pigroot was the main route into Central Otago and the goldfields, it has a special place in our appreciation of Otago's history.

McCormicks Creek Bridge, Dunback | Sarah Gallagher | 14/10/2019 | Heritage New Zealand
McCormicks Creek Bridge, Dunback | Sarah Gallagher | 14/10/2019 | Heritage New Zealand
McCormicks Creek Bridge, Dunback | Sarah Gallagher | 14/10/2019 | Heritage New Zealand



List Entry Information


Detailed List Entry



List Entry Status

Historic Place Category 2


Private/No Public Access

List Number


Date Entered

9th September 2009

Date of Effect

9th September 2009

City/District Council

Waitaki District


Otago Region

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Pt McCormicks Creek Blk VIII Moeraki SD (NZGZ 1969, p.2580.), Otago Land District and the stone bridge known as McCormicks Creek Bridge thereon. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

Legal description

Pt McCormicks Creek Blk VIII Moeraki SD (NZ Gazette 1969, p.2580), Otago Land District.

Stay up to date with Heritage this month