New Zealand

Wellington - Frank Kitts Park Bridge

Yet another overseas bridge that is not actually Millennial. Indeed, it misses the Millennium by over a decade, having been built in the late 1980s, as part of the redevelopment of the Wellington waterfront Frank Kitts Park. The bridge links the Park to the area round Te Papa (the National Museum of New Zealand). 

At first take, this bridge looks like the bridge at Lancaster, with the masts forming a "V". However, on close inspection, one rapidly realises that the resemblance is only skin-deep. The two masts are tied together by a rigid spar, and the deck is quite chunky relative to the masts. Another curious feature of the bridge is that the deck is in fact double - with two parallel decks, one level, and one slightly arched.

The bridge is close to the Civic Square with many fine modern sculptures.

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Clifden Suspension Bridge

No, not a typo - Clifden, not Clifton. Hardly a millennium bridge, more like a (last) century bridge.

The Old Waiau used to be New Zealand's second largest river. Limestone caves provided shelter for Maori heading to the greenstone trails of Fiordland or for hunting parties from coastal settlements, so this became a convenient river crossing point.

European settlers also chose to cross the Waiau here. In 1851 WBD Mantell became the first European to tackle the strong currents. After a few minutes of "intense paddling" he reached the opposite bank without mishap, except that he was a few hundred metres below his starting point! First a ferry, then a punt attached to a wire rope operated until 1899 when this bridge was built.

The Clifden Suspension Bridge, spanning 111.5 metres above the once mighty Waiau River remains as a memorial to those involved in its design and construction from 1896-1899. It claimed fame as having the longest span of any suspension bridge in NZ.

The existence of good limestone deposits at this location was a great advantage to the bridge designer, CH Howorth. He was able to utilize these large blocks, embedded in concrete as anchors for the 28 suspended steel cables and use it as a base to construct the concrete tapered towers. The tower is 7.5 m high,  the deck 3.65 m wide. The bridge was constructed over a period of 10 months 1898-9 at a cost of 5007. The towers were made from concrete mixed by hand and poured inside boxing by bucket and windlass. The exterior was rendered with plaster to resemble stone construction. The decking and secondary bearers were built from  heart Totara, and the wooden framing from Australian hardwood.

The bridge was officially opened on 5 April 1899 by the Hon Sir Joseph Ward on behalf of the Hon Johan McKenzie, Minister of Lands.

Designed as single lane bridge for horse drawn traffic, it was not long before traction engines became a common sight. The bridge was capable of carrying a live load of 137 tons equal to about 12 of the largest traction engines. By the mid 1920s trucks and cars replaced horse traffic, and it remained in use until 1978 when it was replaced by the existing bridge just downstream.

The bridge is registered as a Category I Historic Place with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust and is managed by the Trust on behalf of the Crown.

The Waiau River which is crossed by the bridge drains Lakes Te Anau and Manapouri. Since 1976 the river has been controlled at the point where it leaves Lake Te Anau and 7 km downstream of Lake Manapouri. Most of its waters are used in the massive hydro system that generates electricity for the aluminium smelter at Bluff, in a power station deep beneath the Fiordland Mountains at the west end of Lake Manapouri. For 21 years so much river water was diverted into the lakes that just below the Manapouri Control Structure the riverbed was dry. Downstream at Clifden the river was being fed by tributaries but is was much lower and less productive, than before; an average flow of 440 cumecs had been reduced to 1 cumec. The river mouth could become blocked with sediment, making the floods more destructive when they occurred. Upstream, populations of native fish and brown and rainbow trout were depleted.

Farmers, anglers, boaties, Maori, locals, tourists ... everyone wanted more water in the river, for a number of different reasons. But restoring the river entirely would greatly reduce the output from the Manapouri Power Scheme. It took six years to reach agreement to release more water down the Waiau River. The Waiau today now has a controlled flow regime which ensures a minimum flow at the bridge of 12 to 16 cumecs.

The commemorative plaques are shown in the final photograph:

The top plaque commemorates the bridge opening.

In the centre the plaque commemorates the "Mailboys Cave". 'Joseph Garthwaite pioneer mailboy aged 17 was drowned 1 Km east from here May 26 1866 while attempting to get the mail through. His body was found in a small cave now marked as mailboy's cave.'

The lowest plaque reads 'The residents of Clifden and Districts celebrated the centenary of this bridge on the 18th April 1999'.

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Kawarau Bridge

Yet another New Zealand bridge which is not Millennial - indeed this one is well over 100 years old. And another thing - although most bridges are used to get from one side of a river to the other, this is famous as a base platform for jumping over the side! That's right - it's the site of the Queenstown Bungy Jump.

From 1859 an increasing number of explorers penetrated this area looking for pastoral land. In 1861, gold was discovered in the Arrow River which led to a great influx of people. Crossing the Kawarau River was a hazardous undertaking by means of privately-owned punts. Many times the river was so high that crossing was very difficult or sometimes even impossible.

In the 1870s the County Council decided that a bridge should be built over the river. In 1878 the river flooded to 7 m above normal levels and destroyed punt operations; it was realised that the bridge needed to be built high and strong. In 1879, construction was started and was completed in 18 months on December 30, 1880. At the time of design and construction, building a wire rope bridge was still a relatively new practice. The bridge was described as a "model structure in both design and workmanship" and the bridge engineer, HP Higgingson, was awarded the prestigious Telford Premium Award from Britain's Institution of Civil Engineers. To ensure ultimate strength, 28 gavlvanized steel ropes, 125mm in diameter, made to the exact length, were ordered from England. (Previous suspension bridges in the region had used "endless wire rope" cut to the desired length which were not nearly as strong.)

Span from tower to tower 91.5m
Height above river 43 m
Sag of cable at mid-span 7.03m
Width of platform between girders 3.66m
Dead weight of structure 118 metric tonnes
Live load 163 metric tonnes

In 1963 it became obvious that a two-lane bridge was required and the old bridge was closed and a new steel span bridge was erected. The new bridge is colloquially known as "Battling Betty" after the wife of the chief contractor. The old bridge fell into disrepair, and was under threat of demolition but in 1980 the bridge was gazetted as an historic reserve by the NZ Historic Places Trust.

In 1988 the first licence was given to use the bridge commercially for bungy jumping. In 1990 an extensive restoration project was undertaken by the Department of Conservation and AJ Hackett Bungy. A portion of the fee from each jump is used to contribute to bridge upkeep. During restoration, the cables, steelwork, end towers and anchors were all judged to be in good condition. Although much of the original decking timber had been replaced during the bridge's lifetime, most of the other materials were reused. This is why the bridge still appears today much the same as when it was first built. In 2004 the Prime Minister Helen Clark officially opened the new Kawarau Bungy Centre.

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Wanaka Millennium Walkway

A scenic track along the south side of Lake Wanaka was first established by the Wanaka Walkers in 1989. The first part of the track was known as the Waterfall Creek Track, and extended as far as the Creek of that name (about 4 km from town) with an informal extension beyond. To commemorate the Millennium, the Wanaka Walkers approached the Otago Regional Council for help in upgrading and extending this track for a further 5 km beyond the Creek. Interpretation signs have been erected along the track. Part of the track borders a nohoanga site of importance to Kai Tahu.

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