Waiau Ferry Bridge

Hanmer Springs Road (State Highway 7A), Hanmer Springs

  • Waiau Ferry Bridge. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com .
    Copyright: Shellie Evans . Taken By: Shellie Evans – flyingkiwigirl. Date: 29/07/2017.
  • Waiau Ferry Bridge. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com .
    Copyright: Phil Braithwaite. Taken By: PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite. Date: 28/04/2013.
  • Waiau Ferry Bridge.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Robyn Burgess. Date: 30/01/2011.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 269 Date Entered 24th November 1983 Date of Effect 24th November 1983


Extent of List Entry

Extent of registration includes part of the land described as Legal Road, Canterbury Land District and the structure known as Waiau Ferry Bridge thereon, as shown on SO 654.

City/District Council

Hurunui District


Canterbury Region

Legal description

Legal Road, Canterbury Land District


This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. The following text is the original citation considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

This bridge which spans the entrance to the Waiau Gorge is located below the junction to the Hanmer and Waiau Rivers and was opened in 1887. It replaced an earlier bridge sent plummeting into the river in a nor' west gale in 1874.

The second bridge, like the first, was designed by John Blackett as Engineer in Chief, and the contract let to Andersons Ltd of Christchurch for £14,000. John Anderson, a Canterbury Pilgrim, had established the province's first foundry in 1857. By the 1880s the firm, still in existence today, had branched out into making heavy bridge trusses and erecting them on site. Andersons Ltd became known nationwide for sound engineering design and construction and the Waiau Ferry Bridge testifies to this reputation.

The bridge rests on two inverted triangular frames and at the time was considered 'a model of construction, economic strength, and lightness' in ironwork. It is 77.7m long and 30m above the river.

Andersons Ltd marked the opening of the bridge in 1887 with hospitality on such a lavish scale that the name Champagne Flat is still given to the site of the refreshment marquee.

The new bridge meant that travellers could visit the healing waters of Hanmer without having to risk getting swept away in the Waiau. The bridge was also an integral part of the early stock route connecting Canterbury with Nelson via Acheron and Tophouse. These factors, combined with the engineering skills involved in its construction, make the Waiau Ferry Bridge of undoubted historical significance.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Blackett, John

John Blackett (1818-93) was one of New Zealand's leading nineteenth century civil engineers and the chief designer of many of the public works undertaken during the Vogel era. Born in Newcastle-on-Tyne, he served his apprenticeship with R. & W. Hawthorne, Engineers from 1834-40, and then became a draughtsman and office engineer with the Great Western Railway Company. In 1844 Blackett was made head engineer of a London firm of ship builders and railway contractors, and from 1846 he worked for a copper mining company in Wales. Blackett established his own practice in 1849 but two years later he emigrated to New Zealand and settled near New Plymouth. In 1856 Blackett moved to Nelson where he was appointed Provincial Engineer in 1859. Six years later he became the first Commissioner for the West Coast Goldfields.

After a decade of working in the civil service at a provincial level John Blackett was appointed Marine Engineer and Acting Engineer-in-Chief for the Colony on 1 October 1870. As Marine Engineer, he was responsible for the design of twenty-five lighthouses which were erected during one of the most prolific periods of lighthouse construction in New Zealand. This achievement is considered to be his most significant contribution to engineering in this country, although his work for the Public Works Department was also very important, particularly as it related to the development of the national rail network. Engineer-in-Charge of the North Island Public Works Department from 1878, Blackett was promoted to the office of Engineer-in-Chief of New Zealand in 1884. In this capacity he ran the Engineering Branch of the Public Works Department until 1890 when he was appointed Consulting and Inspecting Engineer for the Colony, resident in London. Blackett returned to New Zealand just before his death in 1893 and he is remembered for the skill with which he realised the ambitious public works programmes fostered by Vogel and his successors.

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1887 -

Other Information

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.