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Historic Waitaki Bridges to be preserved

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Two 12-metre sections of the historic wooden Howe Truss Bridges over the Waitaki River on State Highway 82 near Kurow are to be preserved for public display.

The two 132-year-old wooden bridges, which are being replaced as part of the NZ Transport Agency’s $1 billion programme of investment in Canterbury’s transport network during the next three years, opened in 1881 and have reached the end of their life.

NZTA’s Southern Regional Director Jim Harland says jointly measuring 762 metres long when built, the bridges were one of the largest wooden structures of the time, with Bridge No. 1 (to the north) remaining the longest wooden Howe Truss Bridge in the South Island.

“Working with the Historic Places Trust, Kurow community and the Waitaki and Waimate District Councils, the NZTA has been able to get agreement for two 12-metre spans of the bridges to be preserved on Kurow Island.

“The two spans will form part of a wider public leisure and education area on the island being developed by the Waitaki District Council. This is a great outcome as it allows us to preserve a slice of our history.”

He says when the bridges were built in the 1880s it was a major achievement in construction. “It is good to be able to preserve sections of the historic bridges within the immediate environment to tell the story of that construction.”

Mr Harland says an agreement has been reached with the Waitaki District Council to dispose of the remaining trusses. A number of possible projects where the timber from the trusses could be used have been suggested and it will be up to the council to consider the merits of each when deciding where the timber is used.

Organisations, such as the Hocken Library, North Otago Museum, Historic Places Trust Library and Kurow Museum, are also keen to document and preserve the history of the magnificent old bridges through photos and engineering drawings.

Work begins on the new $18.5 million bridges next month. These are expected to be completed towards the end of next year and will be followed by the six-month demolition of the existing bridges.

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