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Bridges in New Zealand facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Arahura River bridge
The historic Arahura River road/rail bridge on the West Coast of the South Island. It was replaced with a new bridge with separate road and rail sections in 2009.

The bridges in New Zealand are many and varied but only date back to the beginning of European settlement in the mid 19th century.

Road bridges

Some of the longest bridges on the state highway network are:

Single lane bridges

New Zealand, due to its low traffic density, has had many single lane bridges. Some of those still exist on the state highway network and are criticised by road users. These are progressively replaced with two lane structures. The oldest and one of the longest single lane bridge on the state highway network until December 2011 was the 463-metre Kopu Bridge spanning the Waihou River, this was replaced by a 580-metre, 2 lane structure, which opened to traffic on 12 December 2011.


Rail bridges

There are 1787 bridges on the rail network in New Zealand which are maintained by KiwiRail, the infrastructure arm of the New Zealand Railways Corporation.

Road/rail bridges

There are two bridges on the State Highway on West Coast that have rail lines on the road carriageway. Until 2008 the Awatere River bridge had a rail line above the road way. A new road bridge has been constructed with the railway now being the sole use of the original bridge.

Two bridges on now-closed sections of the East Coast Main Trunk line are still in use by road-traffic only. The single deck Pekatahi Bridge, which spans the Whakatane River near Taneatua carries State Highway Two and it used to carry the mothballed rails of the ECMT the tracks were removed in 2019. The rare double-deck road-rail bridge at Karangahake Gorge, which crosses the Ohinemuri River, still carries a local road on the lower level, whilst on the upper level, the railway has been replaced by a walkway.


Huxley River swing bridge
A tramper crossing a swingbridge over a remote river in the South Island.

Since there are numerous large rivers in New Zealand many footbridges have been constructed in the backcountry. During the 1950s many bridges were built, along with backcountry huts, to give hunters access to forested areas to cull introduced deer which had by that stage become a serious pest. Some of the bridges still remain but other have been washed away or replaced with new ones and are now often used due to the popularity of tramping (hiking).

Notable bridges

  • The Auckland Harbour Bridge spans the Waitemata Harbour in the largest city in New Zealand.
  • The Bridge to Nowhere is a concrete road bridge spanning the Mangapurua Stream in Whanganui National Park. It has no roads leading to it, but it is a popular tourist attraction, accessible by boat or kayak. It was built in a failed attempt to open up a remote forested area for farming.
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