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Striking new suspension bridge likely to become a destination

Publish Date
Wed, 15 May 2024, 12:25pm
Manganui Gorge Bridge. Photo / RNZ
Manganui Gorge Bridge. Photo / RNZ

Striking new suspension bridge likely to become a destination

Publish Date
Wed, 15 May 2024, 12:25pm

The echoes of karakia, waiata and rūruku (chants) heralded the official opening of a 100-metre-long suspension bridge on Taranaki Maunga on Wednesday. 

Built to last 100 years and withstand a one-in-250-year avalanche, the Manganui Gorge Bridge is a striking piece of infrastructure likely to become a destination in and of itself. 

Dan Crocker is a lead engineer and design architect on the Manganui Gorge Bridge project. 

He is an expert in the building “long, cool bridges”. 

“What special about this bridge? I think it’s the location. You know you’re on the bridge and you look up and you see that mountain. 

“So, trying to respond to this environment and make sure we did a light touch, but navigation over what is a very long span - this is a 100m span. 

“We wanted it to be stable and feel safe, but also fit with the environment.” 

DC Structures worked with Ngāti Ruanui on the cultural narrative. 

“All the patterning that you see on the balustrade that represents all the phases of the avalanche cycle and we’ve got the taonga on the mast that invites people on to the bridge and there’s a touchstone. 

“So, it really is a kind of challenge to you to walk onto the bridge and a lot of people have walked onto the bridge and it’s cool to see their excitement. 

“You walk up the stairs around the mast and there’s this anticipation as you’re coming onto this bridge and it really is a cool bridge.” 

The $1.2 million bridge was a key component of the $13.4 million Taranaki Crossing project being developed in partnership between Ngā Iwi o Taranaki, the Department of Conservation and Kānoa - the Regional Economic Development & Investment Unit. 

DoC’s Hauraki-Waikato-Taranaki regional director Tinaka Mearns said the bridge was about safety. 

“So, it takes people out of the way of a track which we know is subject to washouts, landslides and avalanches and this brings people up into a safe zone. 

“But it’s also got some fantastic features. Amazing scenery from up there and some gorgeous artwork from Ngāti Ruanui, so we are sure it’s going to be a bit of an attraction by itself.” 

She said stepping on to the bridge was an other-worldly experience. 

“One of my colleagues actually described it amazingly earlier as being a bit like a wave, so a really gentle wave I must add, as in you just feel a slight movement. 

“And there’s lovely handrails to hold onto if you’re a little conscious of being 50m off the ground, but none-the-less it’s not unlike an elevator type feeling.” 

Ngāti Ruanui deputy chair Ngapari Nui said the karakia and rūruku acknowledged Taranaki ancestors. 

Manganui Gorge Bridge. Photo / RNZManganui Gorge Bridge. Photo / RNZ 

“A lot of those rūruku were old traditional ones from the arrival of Turi and Rongorongo here in Taranaki and particularly South Taranaki. 

“So, yeah, the significance of all those rūruku and all the waiata is about the voyage of Aotea waka.” 

He said the Manganui Gorge Bridge would present opportunities for Ngāti Ruanui, which owned the Stratford Mountain House. 

“It’s about the tourism kaupapa that we’re hoping for in the future and we do have our tamariki and mokopuna, so our school kids and all of those will get a chance to reconnect with the maunga also [through the bridge].” 

And then it was the moment of truth for this RNZ correspondent. 

“So there’s a slight wobble on the bridge as we get to the middle but it’s really very stable. Off to my left Taranaki Maunga. Just a dusting of snow there and you can see the gorge and the track below. 

“And if we turn around to the other side and look down to the Stratford Plateau all covered in mist. 

“It’s so still and so beautiful here. I’ve got to say you’ve got to get up here before it’s full of people.” 

The Manganui Gorge Bridge is now open to the public. 

-Robin Martin, RNZ 

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