The people of Taipā in Northland are celebrating the official opening of their new bridge today.
Associate Transport Minister Shane Jones led the celebrations with a ribbon-cutting ceremony this morning. The new two-lane bridge has been open to two-way traffic since Labour Weekend, but today marked the official handover of the bridge to the community.
The day started with a dawn blessing and the unveiling of the carved wood inserts on the waka panels that adorn both ends of the bridge. The pou whenua and a plaque at the relocated war memorial were also unveiled. Hundreds of people from the local community joined iwi, business and community representatives and the NZ Transport Agency and its construction partners at the events.
“It’s a great day for Taipā and the project team. We’ve worked hard to complete construction ahead of schedule, so the new bridge is open for the busy summer period. We know how the town’s population increases in summer and how critical this period is to the local economy,” says Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency Senior Manager Project Delivery, Andrew Thackwray.
“The old one lane bridge on the Twin Coast Discovery Route was often a summer congestion point with delays and safety concerns at the bridge and nearby intersections. The new bridge comes with additional roading and town centre improvements that benefit the local community as well as people passing through. There is improved traffic flow and walking and cycling facilities in a safer environment.”
The new $19m bridge is 107 metres long, with two lanes of traffic and a 2.5 metre walking and cycling shared path. Its most striking feature is the waka tauihu (prow) and taurapa (stern) end panels of a seafaring waka adorning each end of the bridge structure. It acknowledges Taipā as one of the first landing places in New Zealand of the Polynesian explorer Kupe.
The waka hourua (a traditional double hulled sailing canoe) design and the pou whenua were the result of extensive collaboration between the Transport Agency and the local hapu representatives of Ngati Kahu. The close relationship with Ngati Kahu saw the relocation of the old monument from the shop carpark to a more prominent and deserving location. The monument commemorates local fallen soldiers that have died in the line of duty.
“It was really important that we worked closely with local hapu to acknowledge Taipā’s rich history, the significance of its river and estuary and the role of the bridge in the town’s future,” says Mr Thackwray.
“We thank the local people for welcoming us into their community and putting up with quite a bit of disruption and inconvenience during construction. We thank them for their patience and understanding.”
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