Mangapurua Bridge "Bridge to Nowhere"

Mangapurua Valley, Whanganui National Park, Wanganui / Whanganui

  • Mangapurua Bridge "Bridge to Nowhere". From:
    Copyright: Jessica Ebrey. Taken By: Jessica Ebrey. Date: 20/01/2005.
  • Mangapurua Bridge "Bridge to Nowhere".
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: V Morrell. Date: 15/12/2011.
  • .
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: V Morrell. Date: 15/12/2011.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7168 Date Entered 21st April 1994 Date of Effect 21st April 1994


City/District Council

Ruapehu District


Horizons (Manawatū-Whanganui) Region



In 1917 the New Zealand government opened up Mangapurua Valley for settlement by servicemen returning from the World War I. Virgin forest was cleared and 35 farms were established. Initially the valley prospered but access remained a problem and following persistent requests for improved access by the residents the government agreed to erect a bridge across the Mangapurua Stream. The bridge was designed by the Public Works Department in October 1933. Construction of the bridge started in January 1935. Concrete was mixed by hand and the reinforcing steel was bent and cut on site. Construction was completed in June 1936. A swing bridge, built in 1919 and located c40 metres upstream, fell into disrepair from this time.

Economic hardship, inaccessibility and erosion resulted in farmers abandoning their farms. By 1942 only three families remained and they were forced to leave as the government closed the valley in May that year. The disappearing roads and fence lines, and the Mangapurua Bridge, are all that remain of this ill fated government settlement. The bridge is a destination for pedestrian traffic only.

In 1993 the Department of Conservation has been undertaking a concrete investigation costing in the vicinity of $10 000 and plan to spend $30 000 - $40 000 on concrete repairs in 1994. Rust has appeared in some places where the reinforcing steel has been exposed.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Contrasting the overall success of the resettlement programme for World War I veterans, the Mangapurua Settlement is notorious as a failure. With its reinforced concrete construction, Mangapurua Bridge is very much an enduring symbol of this failed settlement. The failure of the settlement does not diminish the importance of the bridge but rather adds to its renown. Mangapurua Bridge is relatively well-known throughout the Wanganui region, and has been chosen as the dominant feature in the Whanganui National Park logo. Located within this national park and with native bush surrounds, the bridge reflects the change in attitude from using to conserving New Zealand's natural resources.


Mangapurua Bridge is a Public Works Department bridge and is a typical example of its genre, that of the arched reinforced concrete bridge. Bridges such as this were built throughout New Zealand.


As a result of its scale and reinforced concrete construction, Mangapurua Bridge is the most significant man-made structure in Whanganui National Park. It is almost engulfed by its native bush surrounds and appears somewhat incongruous. Other man-made structures such as roads and fence lines are disappearing.


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

Public Works Department

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Public Works Department

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Sandford and Brown, Builders, Raetihi

Sandford and Brown, Builders, was a Raetihi firm, and one well known in the Waimarino. In addition to constructing the Mangapurua Bridge, they also built the Raetihi Bridge over the Makotuku, the County Council offices, several houses in the district and extensions to Waimarino Hospital.

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description


Mangapurua Bridge is a simply supported arched bridge constructed of reinforced concrete. Approximately 40 metres long, the carraigeway is attached to the crown of the arch and is supported on upright members attached to the haunch of the arch. At either end of the carraigeway is a pier. The bridge is about 36.6 metres above the Mangapurua Stream and has a concrete balustrade on either side.


Nil. The Department of Conservation plans to undertake concrete repairs in 1994.

Notable Features

The bridge is capable of carrying vehicular traffic, of which there is none.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1935 -

Construction Details

Mangapurua Bridge is an arched bridge constructed of reinforced concrete.

Completion Date

26th November 1993

Information Sources

Allen, 1984

Elizabeth Allen, In the Hills of the Waimarino: the Human Story of the Development of the District, Wanganui: Wanganui Newspapers Ltd, 1984.

Wanganui Chronicle

Wanganui Chronicle

17 June 1936

Bates, 1981

Arthur Bates, The Bridge to Nowhere, The Ill Fated Mangapurua Settlement, Wanganui Newspapers, 1981

Lay, 1992

M G Lay, Ways of the World, A History of the World's Roads and of the Vehicles That Used Them, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1992

Other Information

A registration report is available from the NZHPT Central 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.