$2.8m structure open for business

IT'S OFFICIAL: The Te Rewa Rewa bridge is open for business. From left, designer Chris Whitaker, council kaumatua Lindsay MacLeod, Transport Minister  Steven Joyce, Mayor Peter Tennent and MP Jonathan Young take a walk across the new structure.
CAMERON BURNELL/Taranaki Daily News
IT'S OFFICIAL: The Te Rewa Rewa bridge is open for business. From left, designer Chris Whitaker, council kaumatua Lindsay MacLeod, Transport Minister Steven Joyce, Mayor Peter Tennent and MP Jonathan Young take a walk across the new structure.

New Plymouth finally has its second crossing over the Waiwhakaiho River.

The $2.8 millon Te Rewa Rewa bridge, the centrepiece of the coastal walkway extension, was officially opened by Transport Minister Steven Joyce early on Saturday morning.

The 9.30am formal opening included a kapa haka performance, powhiri and a cutting of a flax rope rather than a ribbon.

About 100 invited guests turned out for the event, and were treated to a marquee morning tea afterwards.

However, well before the formalities were over, hundreds of eager pedestrians, joggers and cyclists were milling about, waiting for their chance to cross the bridge during the public opening at 11.30am.

One excited cyclist, Di Herbert, said the extension meant she could now extend her biking route out to Bell Block.

"I wouldn't think of going the other way. This will be fantastic," she said.

During the opening ceremony, Mr Joyce pronounced the bridge "beautiful" and said he remembered trying to cross the river in his youth, to no avail.

"When I was a kid they would have these debates about the city that turned its back on the sea," he said.

"And now look at it, it's wonderful."

The minister was not alone in his praise of the bridge's design – evocative of a white breaking wave or bleached whale skeleton – which looked stunning in the early morning light.

"Marvellous," "magnificent" and "amazing" were just a few of the comments from guests and members of the public.

Designer Chris Whitaker, from Whitaker Civil Engineering, said he was "tickled pink".

In addition to building the bridge, Mr Whitaker's family trust also made a significant donation towards its cost.

The New Zealand Transport Agency paid $1.7 million for the bridge, while New Plymouth District Council contributed an additional $1.1m.

The bridge's opening marks the first time the northern river bank has been made easily accessible to the public.

As one bystander noted, the whitebaiters will no longer have to row their boats across the river to fish, and surfers will have an easier paddle out to the nearby break.

The full walkway extension to Bell Block is expected to be ready for use in six to eight weeks, subject to weather.

It is expected to cost a total of $4.2m.

Taranaki Daily News