Landmark bridge still a strong asset to Pahiatua

Pahiatua’s town bridge has become an enduring landmark in the Tararua District. 

Pahiatua Town Bridge
The Pahiatua town bridge was the Fletcher Construction Company’s first venture into reinforced concrete bowstring arch bridge construction in 1930s New Zealand. The company was able to capitalise on this success to go on to achieve further bowstring arch bridge contracts with the Balclutha Bridge in South Otago and Fairfield Bridge in the Waikato. All three bridges are listed Category 1 by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga. 

The Pahiatua Town bridge is also of special significance as part of concerted government efforts to proactively weather the economic crisis of the Great Depression. It therefore became a statement of determination and positivity which was reiterated by Prime Minister, George Forbes, when he opened the bridge in December 1932. At the opening it was described as one of the most impressive bridges in the lower North Island. 

The bridge, which provides a vital link across the Mangatainoka River, was greatly anticipated because it secured the town’s crucial link to its railway station. Over the years rail transport has waxed and waned, but with increasing road transport vehicles and other traffic to and from Pahiatua, the bridge has had huge daily usage.  

It continues to provide a significant drawcard for functionality as well as its outstanding aesthetics, reinforced concrete giving longevity to the shallow and less weighty bowstring arch design form. 

To the people of this rural town in the Tararua District as well as to passing traffic through to the north to southern Hawke’s Bay and south to the Wairarapa, the Pahiatua Town bridge is certainly a special heritage asset destined to remain a distinctive feature for many decades to come.

- David Watt