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Bridge on the way out – at last

New Zealand Historic Places Trust Pouhere Taonga

For immediate release

Bridge on the way out – at last

June 23

The New Zealand Historic Places Trust is watching the removal of the first section of the road bridge in the Kerikeri Basin with keen anticipation.

Removal of the bridge will help achieve a more secure future for two of New Zealand’s oldest, well known – and vulnerable – heritage buildings.

“The whole country watched with horror the effects of extreme flooding in Northland on TV in March last year – and in particular floods in the Basin as water backed up behind debris caught in the roadbridge, directly threatening Kemp House and the Stone Store,” says the New Zealand Historic Places Trust’s Northern Heritage Destinations Manager, Gordon Hewston.

“It’s sobering to think that this could happen again at any time.”

With the road bridge on the way out and the new heritage bypass in operation, however, the future of Kemp House and the Stone Store is looking a lot brighter.

“The existing bridge acts as a dam during floods, raising the height of the water upstream by about a metre. That doesn’t sound like much, but it represents a large volume of water. Removing the bridge will make a huge difference to the effort to protect the buildings for future generations,” says Gordon.

The Kerikeri Basin is culturally and historically one of the most important places in New Zealand. There are several sites remaining from the meeting of the Maori and Pakeha worlds, including the country’s oldest surviving buildings. The Basin is also one of a small number of heritage sites in New Zealand that qualify for World Heritage Site status.

The government is providing around $17 million for construction of the Heritage Bypass project, providing an alternative route for traffic, thereby enabling the removal of the road bridge and the threat to the two historic buildings.

The Bypass opened for business today, with demolition of the old road bridge beginning immediately.

“This is a great day for New Zealand – and particularly Kerikeri,” says Gordon.

“The Historic Places Trust has waited 27 years for this day – ever since the 1981 flood almost washed Kemp House down the river. Without the bridge acting as a dam during times of flooding, the chances of these two buildings surviving long into the future will get a lot better.”

An added bonus, according to Gordon, is the fact that 7500 cars and trucks will be diverted from the Basin every day, enabling the area to achieve its full potential.

“Without doubt, the Kerikeri Basin will become the magnificent heritage park that people have been wanting for a long time – it has the potential to become Kerikeri’s greatest asset,” he says.

“The Ministry for Culture and Heritage should be congratulated for their commitment and far-sightedness in providing funding for the bypass to be built and the roadbridge to be demolished, as well as Far North District Council for their management of this project.”


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