The historic Tauranga Bridge is the only surviving harp suspension bridge left in New Zealand.

It was built in 1922 by the Public Works Department to provide access to sheep farms up the Tauranga Valley.

The bridge is of national significance for its engineering design and appearance. Heritage New Zealand has registered it as a Category I Historic Place.

From a tower at one end, each suspension cable passes under a different bridge crosspiece, before rising to the tower at the other end. This creates an unusual and attractive 'harp-like' pattern, hence the term harp suspension bridge.

The valley was subdivided in 1906 and settled under a government scheme to create farms from unproductive forest land. The rugged landscape proved unsuitable for farming and the settlers struggled with the difficult conditions.

In 1918 a flood swept away the original suspension bridge across the Waioeka River. A temporary crossing was used until 1922 when the Public Works Department built the present bridge.

Ultimately the farms failed and from the late 1920s farmers began to abandon their properties with little to show for their efforts. By the early 1970s the Crown once again owned all the blocks. Today the area forms the Waioeka Gorge Scenic Reserve.

In the 1970s when farming in the valley was abandoned, vehicles stopped using the bridge, and it was no longer maintained. By the 1990s, the bridge was near to collapse.  However, in 1994, significant structural work was carried out on the bridge, followed by further restoration in 1996.

With the support of Environment Bay of Plenty further work and routine maintenance was completed in 2002-2004 and 2008.

Today the bridge survives as a monument to early farming in the Waioeka area, when the Waioeka Gorge was remote and inaccessible, and covered mostly in bush.

It's is a significant tourist attraction on the Waioeka Journey -Te Awa a Tamatea, a stretch of SH2 between Ōpōtiki and Gisborne. It's at the start of the Tauranga Loop Track.

Back to top