03 September 2012

Arahura River Bridge

The Arahura River Bridge, demolished in 2009, was a Howe truss, timber, single lane, combined road and rail bridge on State Highway 6, over the Arahura River (between Greymouth and Hokitika). The bridge was an important link in the West Coast’s transport network for around 110 years, and was a rare remaining New Zealand example of a large timber truss bridge.

The construction of the Arahura River Bridge, as part of the Hokitika–Greymouth railway, was begun in 1886, and was supported by local politician and Premier of New Zealand, Richard Seddon (1845–1906). The County Council had bad luck with road bridges across the Arahura River, mostly because of severe floods, and they successfully petitioned the government to have road decking added to the bridge, creating a combined road and rail bridge in 1891. The railway was not opened until late in 1893.

The bridge’s 211 metre (m) length comprised seven 24.4 m truss spans, and it had 11 timber stringer spans. The trusses were a standard Public Works Department (PWD) type, and the Arahura River Bridge was originally built in local black birch, with some iron tension members. This typical PWD bridge design was developed by its Engineer in Chief, John Blackett (1818–1893).

One of its Howe trusses was retained and is now the centrepiece of the Arahura Bridge Heritage Park, close to the site of the former bridge. The remaining span serves as a memorial to the former structure. The park’s display includes educational material about the history of the former Arahura River Bridge.

Read the heritage assessment (PDF 420KB).


More information

Location

Formerly on State Highway 6 about 6 kilometres north of Hokitika, Westland. The Arahura Bridge Heritage Park, where the remaining span of this bridge is located, is to the east of the current State Highway 6 bridge across the Arahura River.

Access

The single remaining span of the former bridge is now in a public park near the location of the replacement highway bridge.

References

Geoffrey Thornton, Bridging the Gap: Early bridges in New Zealand, 1830-1939, Reed, Auckland, 2001.

Paul Mahoney, 'Arahura Bridge,' Report to the IPENZ National Engineering Heritage Committee, 2000.