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Opawa Bridge replacement banner

Project introduction

A new two-lane bridge, to the western side of the existing bridge, will be constructed over the Ōpaoa River to improve travel on State Highway 1 north of Blenheim. The existing bridge will become a pedestrian and cycle facility.

  • Estimated project cost

    $21 million
  • Project type

    Bridge replacement
  • Project status


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Latest news

Downer New Zealand Ltd has been formally appointed to carry out the construction of the new bridge over the Ōpaoa River.

We have budgeted $21 million to cover the cost of bridge construction, which includes professional services and moving telecommunications cables in the vicinity.   The project is expected to be completed by mid-2020 including road realignment and landscaping.

A new two-lane bridge was confirmed as the preferred option in October 2016 following community engagement and the completion of the Detailed Business Case.

Read more about this decision in the Detailed Business Case report

A summary report outlining community feedback on the proposal to replace the heritage bridge is also now available. It summarises over 170 items of feedback received from individuals, stakeholders, organisations, societies, and interest groups.

Public engagement has been an important part of the process. The feedback we received confirmed what the local community has been saying for some time – that the heritage bridge is inadequate in serving the needs of local residents and the needs of state highway road users.

Read more on the engagement summary report


In 2015, the NZ Transport Agency launched an investigation of bridges on State Highway 1 north of Blenheim. 

The Wairau Bridge was found to be in serviceable condition. It has been certified to carry heavier vehicles and can be effectively maintained. Replacement of this bridge may be considered in the future. The heritage bridge over the Ōpaoa River however, was identified for replacement.

It was confirmed as too narrow for some vehicles, large freight vehicles in particular. We also learned the bridge is vulnerable in an earthquake.

The Transport Agency has confirmed a new two-lane bridge will be built on the western side of the existing bridge. The existing bridge will be kept for pedestrians and cyclists.


At the heart of our investigation work is our key objective to keep people and goods moving along State Highway 1 between Blenheim and Picton. We want to:

  • make journey times more reliable
  • make sure freight moves efficiently
  • make the region more resilient to natural disasters, and
  • support State Highway 1 as a strategic freight route between Picton and Christchurch

There are two specific benefits that can be achieved by addressing identified problems. They are:

  • Increased throughput of freight and light vehicles and greater journey certainty on State Highway 1 and
  • Greater structural resilience to natural hazard events, that results in increased availability and access.