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Our partnership with mana whenua

Working in partnership with the communities we live and work in is at the heart of everything we do, and our partnerships with mana whenua have allowed us to create projects and places we can all be proud of. As part of the new Ōpaoa Bridge project in Wairau/Blenheim, we worked closely with three iwi on a special project that's now a centrepiece of the community.

The SH1 Ōpaoa River Bridge project included the construction of a new SH1 bridge across the Ōpaoa River and upgrading the old "banana" bridge for walking and cycling. It also provided an opportunity to work alongside our mana whenua treaty partners and Marlborough District Council on the design and construction of a new SH1 gateway to Blenheim, including a link to the existing path, landscaping, areas for rest and relaxation, acknowledgement of mana whenua and information about the history of the area.

Here’s a behind the scenes insight into how it came together.

Completion of the Ōpaoa River Bridge project

The Ōpaoa River Bridge project was officially completed on Saturday 28 November 2020, with the blessing and unveiling of a new pou whenua and opening of the walking and cycling path on the old Opawa Bridge.

The pou whenua 'Kei Puta Te Wairau', carved by master carver Reg Thompsett (Ngāti Maniapoto, Tainui), stands between the new bridge across the Ōpaoa River, and the old Opawa Bridge, which has been retained for walking and cycling.

Waka Kotahi is proud to have delivered the SH1 Ōpaoa River bridge project in Blenheim – a vital piece of infrastructure on New Zealand’s key transport corridor.

Dawn blessing marking the next stage of construction on SH1 Ōpaoa River Bridge

June 2020

A beautiful pre-dawn blessing was held last week at the new State Highway 1 Ōpaoa River bridge, ahead of northbound traffic being diverted onto the new alignment.

The switch will allow the next stage of work on this important project to get underway. With workers still on site, please continue to be careful as you drive across.

To our Iwi and Council friends who joined us in the pre-dawn darkness – ngā mihi nui ki a koutou katoa.

Master carver appointed for New Ōpaoa River Bridge gateway

December 2019

Award-winning Spring Creek master carver Reg Thompsett has been commissioned to carve the new pou whenua that will grace the northern entrance to Wairau (Blenheim), when the New Ōpaoa River Bridge opens in mid-2020.

Reg is well known for his skill and passion for carving – he trained at the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute in Rotorua as a young man.

Beautiful examples of his work can be found at the Wairau Hospital chapel, Meretoto (Ship Cove) and the whare nui Te Aroha O Te Waipounamu at Omaka Marae. Reg has chosen a large Matai log sourced locally as his raw material.

Mana whenua iwi – Rangitāne, Ngāti Rārua and Ngāti Toa – are working with the New Zealand Transport Agency and Marlborough District Council on the gateway and landscaping alongside the New Ōpaoa River Bridge.