Three generations walk on “Poppies Bridge” at Matakohe, with the old Hardies Bridge in the background. Truck driver Tua Manga (right rear) with his wife Adelaide, daughter Sophia (left rear) and granddaughters Shakayla and Tanisha Clayton

New bridge has public opening

by Paul Campbell

The $39 million Matakohe deviation of State Highway 12 and replacement of two single-lane bridges has taken a huge step toward completion after an estimated 700 people attended an open day and walked over the new crossing.

It was the first time the public has been allowed on to the larger of the two new bridges in what was billed as the ‘community barbecue on the bridge’.

“Saturday was a very special day where we could celebrate significant progress on the Matakohe realignment project. The new bridge will replace the old Hardies Bridge, but it’s still offline, so this was a unique experience to walk across it free of traffic,” said acting senior project delivery manager, Karen Boyt.

The open day followed the opening of the bridge to replace the old Anderson Bridge to traffic two weeks ago and the introduction last week of two-way traffic on 1.8km of the road in the western section. The two new bridges and 2.5km road realignment will remove tight curves and short straights to improve safety on this section of the Twin Coast Discovery Route. The project is expected to be completed mid-2019.

Saturday’s celebration started with a dawn blessing and the gifting of the bridge’s name — Piringa Tahi (bringing together as one) — which follows the name given in February to the smaller bridge Te Ao Marama Hou (moving from the past into the future).

Hundreds took the opportunity to get a close up look at the new structure during a four-hour period. They also enjoyed sausages cooked by the local Lions Club, with money raised going to the Matakohe and Paparoa Schools and the new dementia unit in Maungaturoto.

Among the sightseers were three generations of the Manga family. For Shakayla and Tanisha Clayton, Piringa Tahi will always be known as “Poppy’s Bridge”. Their grandfather Tua Manga has been working on the construction as a driver for the subcontractor, Kevin Reid Contracting.

The new bridge is expected to open to traffic later next month.