Waiteti Viaduct

North Island Main Trunk, Mangaokewa Reserve Road, Te Kuiti

  • Waiteti Viaduct.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Gail Henry. Date: 8/11/2001.
  • .
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Gail Henry. Date: 8/11/2001.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 4175 Date Entered 15th February 1990 Date of Effect 15th February 1990


City/District Council

Waitomo District


Waikato Region

Legal description

Railway Land (NZ Gazette 1888, p.455), South Auckland Land District


The 130 m (425 feet) long Waiteti Viaduct was built on the North Island Main Trunk Railway in 1889 and is one of the earliest iron viaducts in New Zealand. Located 3 km south of Te Kuiti, its construction was the first of several major engineering works as the railway was extended southwards from the Waikato into the King Country. The line was part of a long-term plan to connect Auckland with Wellington, and to open up the interior of the North Island for farming and forestry. Its construction through the King Country proceeded after reassurances were provided to local Maori that it would not be accompanied by land confiscation or the introduction of liquor to the region. Work on the Mokau section - including the viaduct - was based at Te Kuiti, providing much-needed employment during the economic depression of the 1880s. The contract was let by the government to the engineering firm of J. & A. Anderson of Christchurch, who had produced the first New Zealand-made steam engines in 1857. The project was the first of many carried out by Andersons in the North Island, having previously been involved in railway construction in and around Canterbury.

Designed by the Public Works Department, the viaduct is of trestle design and crosses the Waiteti stream at a height of 35 m (115 feet) above river level. It was built using several horizontal lattice girders of equal length, supported by three lattice piers held in mass concrete abutments and foundations. All wrought iron elements were made in a foundry established by Andersons in Te Kuiti, then riveted together on site to form the major bridge components. The rail track and footway are carried above, on a rolled iron transom. The bridge was strengthened in the early twentieth century, when plate girders replaced each end span and reinforced concrete piers were added. This was carried out without serious interruption to rail traffic, an unusual achievement at the time. Greater weight-bearing capacity allowed more powerful locomotives to be employed on the line, increasing the speed of travel and amount of freight carried. Further strengthening and repairs were carried out in the 1950s and 1970s, enabling the bridge to continue in everyday use.

The Waiteti Viaduct is nationally significant as the earliest iron viaduct built in the North Island and is only the second of its type in New Zealand. It is notable for its early use of riveted wrought iron components, produced locally by J. & A. Anderson, a firm of national renown. The bridge demonstrates the importance accorded to the rail network in the economic development of the country, and the employment of expertise from all parts of the country. It is significant for its connections with unemployment relief, the use of private companies for major government contracts and the development of relationships between Pakeha and Kingite Maori, which includes attitudes to land confiscation and alcohol. Its construction was an important stimulus to the development of nearby Te Kuiti, providing the precedent for the town's subsequent association with heavy industry. Later alterations are significant for showing the increasing capacity of rail transport, and innovative engineering solutions in the 1920s. The viaduct is important for its association with other engineering achievements on the same trunk line and has considerable landmark value as a prominent visual feature, high above the Waiteti stream.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Waiteti Viaduct is one of several significant engineering structures on the North Island Main Trunk railway. Although the immediate objectives of the railway were the political expedients of linking Wellington and Auckland by a reliable railway and the provision of employment through a major public work during a time of widespread economic depression, the more significant long- term benefit was the opening up of the central North Island for farming and forestry.


The Waiteti Viaduct was the second New Zealand railway viaduct built in iron. It is a notable early use of wrought iron components riveted together to form larger structural sections.


An imposing landmark high above the Waiteti stream, a headwater of the [Waipa] River.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Public Works Department

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

J & A Anderson Ltd

The New Zealand engineering firm of Anderson Limited (later J & A Anderson Ltd) was established in 1850 by John Anderson who was one of the first Canterbury settlers. He built the first New Zealand-made steam engines 1857, together with wool presses and a variety of machinery and mechanical components.

By 1877 the firm was involved in railway engineering and construction in the South Island. The Waiteti Viaduct contract was the first involvement of his sons John and Andrew in major construction work, and it was their first major work in the North Island. They later built the Manganui-a-te-Ao and Mangaturuturu bridges and the Makatote Viaduct on the North Island Main Trunk railway.

Public Works Department

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative


Throughout the period 1880-1910 the construction of the North Island Main Trunk railway pushed southwards from Te Awamutu and northwards from the Manawatu into the physically difficult country of the volcanic plateau of the Central North Island between Taumarunui and Taihape. The steep changes of elevation and the deep ravines of the inland rivers posed major engineering challenges which were solved by the construction of major tunnels, bridges and viaducts. The Waiteti Viaduct, two miles south of Te Kuiti was the first of these challenges on the northern sector of the line. The contract for the construction was awarded to the Christchurch firm of J & A Anderson, and was its first major engineering venture into the North Island. They established a workshop at Te Kuiti for the fabrication of the steel bridge sections, although the population of the work camp below the bridge site at times exceeded that of the town. The contract which included construction of some track, commenced in 1887 and the bridge was opened in May 1889.

Physical Description


The Waiteti Viaduct is a trestle viaduct comprising four equal lattice girders totalling 130 metres (425 feet) in length and 35 metres (115 feet) above river level. The foundations and abutments are of mass concrete and the structure is carried on three lattice piers of wrought iron. It was the second New Zealand railway viaduct built in iron. The wrought iron components are riveted together to form the major bridge components. The rail track and footway are carried on a rolled iron transom.


1926 - Strengthening with plate girders replacing the end spans, with each supported on a reinforced concrete pier at its midpoint.

Notable Features

Registration covers the structure, its fixtures and finishes. It also includes recent modifications.

Spectacular landscape setting.

Early use of iron bridge construction in New Zealand.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1887 - 1889

1915 -
Reinforced concrete piers, begun but not completed

1926 - 1927
Strengthened with plate girders, using 1915 concrete piers

1950 - 1959

1970 - 1979
Railbeams renewed

Construction Details

Abutments and bases of concrete; piers and girders of wrought iron.

Completion Date

20th November 2001

Report Written By

Martin Jones

Information Sources

Anderson, 1974

E. Arnott Anderson, A Life's Roundabout, Christchurch, 1974


Anderson, 1950

H.B. Anderson, 100 Years: Being an Account of the Founding, Development and Progress of Andersons 1850-1950, n.d. (c.1950)


Doidge, 1929

O.J. Doidge, 'Notes on the Strengthening of the Waiteti Railway Viaduct', Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Civil Engineers, No.15, 1929, pp.100-109

Doidge, 1929 (2)

O.J. Doidge, 'Resumed Discussion of 'The Strengthening of the Waiteti Railway Viaduct'', Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Civil Engineers, No.15, 1929, pp.142-144

Furkert, 1953

Frederick William Furkert, Early New Zealand Engineers, Wellington, 1953

Hudson, 1993

Patrick Hudson, Bridges of New Zealand, Wellington, 1993


Leitch, 1972

David B. Leitch, Railways of New Zealand, Auckland, 1972


New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust

'Waiteti Viaduct, Te Kuiti, Mokau Section, North Island Trunk Railway', Buildings Classification Committee Report, Wellington, 1989

Thornton, 2001

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


Craig, 1962

R Craig. South of the Aukati Line, a history of the King Country, Te Awamutu. 1962

Pierre, 1981

Pierre, W. 1981. North Island Main Trunk: An Illustrated History, Christchurch

Other Information

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration. Information in square brackets indicates modifications made after the paper was considered by the NZHPT Board.

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.