A bridge evolution
by Paul Campbell and Liz Clark
The Matakohe deviation of SH12, a multi-million dollar step ahead for Kaipara communication, is now open and it won‘t be long before the pioneering work of roading and bridge engineers of yesteryear is just a memory.
It was a sense of relief for all concerned, including a bridge replacement campaign by local residents, when the New Zealand Transport Agency began work to replace; the two notorious one-way bridges and realign the road.
Hardies Bridge was especially notorious. The single-lane crossing was made over creaking boards, rattling metal joists and a cracked and potholed roadway.
However, back in the 1870s, the two bridges were a godsend when the road north to Ruawai and beyond was little more than a surveyor’s line and a rough bullock track. It took hours to get cattle and carts across and hope the tide didn’t come in too quickly.
Tenders for a stone causeway were advertised by the local roads board in May 1873. Three years later a traveller took note of the causeway and suggested a bridge was very much needed: “It is the only break between the east and west coasts, there are no obstacles of an engineering character to contend against; therefore a bridge should be erected”.
So in 1880, a wooden bridge was constructed by local sawmiller, Richard Smith, a crossing that underwent several lots of repairs during many decades of service. Then in 1927, it was replaced by the present structure.
Gwynn and Son constructed it for the Public Works Department: ‘… The bridge, which replaces an old and dangerous structure, is of concrete piers and abutments, rolled steel joists and hardwood superstructure…’
By summer 2019, the old creaking one-way bridge of ire was no longer in service. No more will drivers take a breath, hope the driver on the west side stops at the give way mark, and make the crossing over a veteran construction that will soon fade to memory.