13 August 2015

Lloyd Smith

Lower Shotover Bridge

A compound Pratt truss bridge, with tall concrete piers, the Lower Shotover Bridge was designed by eminent engineer, James Edward Fulton (1854–1928) in 1909. This bridge replaced a structure further down the Shotover River which had proven expensive for the Lake County Council to maintain because it was susceptible to the region’s frequent floods.

However, construction at the new road bridge was interrupted and significantly delayed because of a legal dispute between the contractors, Wellington-based firm Johnston, and the County Council, which arose because the contractor did not follow the specifications for one of the piers. Although seemingly resolved and work resumed, eventually the contractors ceased all works and in 1913 the County Council asked the Public Works Department (PWD) to complete the job. The County Council were vindicated for taking legal action against the contractor because the pier in question collapsed during a flood shortly before the PWD took over construction.

Starting virtually from scratch, the PWD completed the bridge on 14 April 1915, and the 172.5 m long structure was officially opened by William Fraser (1840–1923), Minister of Public Works, a few days later.

In the early 21st century the Lower Shotover Bridge no longer carried vehicle traffic. Instead, it was primarily used as a support for an irrigation pipeline. As such, the bridge had deteriorated due to neglect and in 2003 it was proposed that the structure should be restored. The project, which got underway in 2004, was organised by the Rotary Shotover Bridge Restoration Trust, with major funding from the Central Lakes Trust, Community Trust of Southland and the Queenstown Lakes District Council. The project was completed in 2005 and included the replacement of the Lower Shotover Bridge’s deck and handrails.

The structure is now used by the pedestrians and cyclists using the Queenstown Trail.

More information


Lower Shotover, upstream of the State Highway 6 road bridge about 11 kilometres from Queenstown, Central Otago.


Pedestrians and cyclists can access this structure from Spence Road.


Otago Witness, 4 August 1909, p.39.

Evening Post, 17 October 1912, p.3.

‘Celebration as work starts on bridge restoration,’ Queenstown Lakes District Council Press Release, 18 August 2004.

‘Public invited to bridge opening,’ Queenstown Lakes District Council Press Release, 19 May 2005

G. Thornton, Bridging the Gap: Early bridges in New Zealand, Auckland, 2001, pp.117, 163-64.