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OPINION: On December 14th, 2019, I (Sam Hudson) had the opportunity and chance to report on the new Manawatū River Bridge opening day/walk day.
Hundreds of people raced to see the new Bridge for its quality and purpose that day. It was a great time to be alive, walking with numerous people on a brand new Bridge before it’d turn into the main highway road that can no longer be walked.
Upon walking on the bridge, I had met a lady that knew some information about the past from the Whirokino Trestle Bridge (old bridge next to the new Manawatū River Bridge). Her name was Anne Hunt, and she had served on the Horowhenua District Council from 2004 until 2013.
Anne Hunt said that she could vividly recall a workshop with NZTA, expressing her concerns that the RONS (Run of Network, Advertising) was to stop south of the Whirokino Bridge.
“I therefore vigorously expressed my concerns about the safety of that bridge, and the NZTA certainly took that on board after conducting further checks. While I was working as the local journalist, the Manawatū County Council engineer Paul Cassidy had taken me down under the bridge and shown me the structural defects,” said Annie Hunt. (That was therefore pre-1989.)
Annie Hunt mentioned she had taken photos of the Moutoa floodgates diverting floodwaters, causing flooding, lapping at the base of the Whirokino Trestle Bridge.
“I also had to cover the death of local cyclist Ken Everett who had warned the local media only a week beforehand that the bridge was too narrow and dangerous for cyclists. Finally, there had been times I had been late for a council meeting due to the detour necessary when there was an accident on the bridge,” said Annie Hunt.
The History behind the Whirokino Trestle Bridge:
The bridge had been near completion/construction in 1938 and opened on 17th April 1939.
The area that the bridge had built on is a swampland that can lead to flooding from the Manawatū River; it was the main reason for making the bridge in hopes the floods cannot reach the bridge. Photos from the Manawatū River Bridge walk/open day.
The bridge for the public had been opened up on Feb 27th, 2020, but not long after the bridge was put in to stop/go on the 4th-6th of March for four weeks to southbound traffic; previously meant to be eight weeks.
The bridge isn’t completed for construction as of March. 2020. A detour was put in place from NZTA (New Zealand Transport Association) that’d make commuters going southbound from State Highway 1 drive through to SH57 Shannon.