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Te Arai Footbridge Re-opening Huge For Manutūkē Community’s Well-being

Members of the Manutūkē community walked down memory lane on Wednesday to celebrate the reopening of the Te Arai swing bridge that connects their township.

The footbridge has been a special feature of Manutūkē for generations and is unique to Tairāwhiti.

It’d been out of action for six months after a tree came down damaging parts of the bridge.

Reverend Barry Ria of Rongowhakaata iwi re-opened the repaired bridge with a karakia to a group of Manutūkē residents, with representatives from Gisborne District Council.

Manutūkē has around 500 people and they’re quite spread out. When the footbridge was out of action, it effectively cut the community in two.

The Te Aria River runs through the township and the Te Arai swing footbridge connects whānau to the school, their neighbours and to the petrol station to get daily bread and milk.

When the bridge couldn’t be used – the alternative for young people, or those without cars, was to walk along the SH2 vehicle bridge which has no pedestrian walkway.

Council Journeys Manager Dave Hadfield said yesterday’s re-opening may seem small in the scale of recovery work this region has ahead of it.

“There’s still a lot to do around the region however the completion of this project is going to make a huge difference to the Manutūkē community’s wellbeing.

“It’s nice to mark these wins along the way.”

Manutūkē Fire Chief Karl Scragg was acknowledged for keeping everyone informed of the progress over the six months the bridge was out of use.

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Karl made sure the community knew the time frames and updated them with information when he got it from Council.

Before the swing bridge was installed in the 50s, there used to be a one-way vehicle bridge, which was built around 1935 when SH2 went through Manutūkē.

It was called the Te Arai Main Highway Bridge.

In 1955 it collapsed suddenly during a calm patch of weather.

Speaking at the re-opening yesterday, Ohako Marae Trustee Stan Pardoe said their elders at the time said the taniwha had been disturbed. A Bailey bridge was installed that same year to keep the community connected and then the swing bridge followed.

The failure of the bridge in 1955 led to SH2 being re-aligned with a new vehicle bridge built that cut off Manutūkē from the main road.

The Te Arai swing footbridge is the only one of its type in Tairāwhiti, and specialist parts had to be ordered.

It’s a feature of the township. The bridge is used for wedding photography, tamariki use it to get to school and it connects part of the township to Ohako Marae.

Mr Pardoe said if you grew up in Manutuke, “you've crossed this bridge”.

“Thank you to Council. You’ve done a good job of opening it up again, there are a lot of memories down here.

Mr Hadfield thanked the Manutuke community for their patience while the bridge was closed for repair.

“It was great to hear the stories shared today as the Te Arai swing footbridge was reopened.”
The cost for repairs came in at around $55,000.

From left at Wednesday’s reopening of the Te Arai swing footbridge in Manutūkē are Council Journeys Infrastructure manager Dave Hadfield, Manutūkē Fire Chief Karl Scragg, Manutūkē residents Thelma Karaitiana, Stan Pardoe, Dave Pardoe, Council Communications Advisor Sophie Rishworth, Manutūkē resident Kathy Gower, Roadnoise’s Kate Reynolds, Manutūkē residents Samuel Lewis, Lillian Horsfall and Reverend Barry Ria.

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