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Bush Telegraph - 2021-10-11

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Town bridge drawcard for functionality and aesthetics

EXPLORE PAHIATUA

History — courtesy of Heritage New Zealand: “Not only a physically significant landmark within the Tararua region, but Pahiatua Town Bridge is also of special importance as a landmark in terms of its design and for the influential construction company associated with it. “Pahiatua Town Bridge was Fletcher Construction Company’s first venture into reinforced concrete bridge building and they were able to capitalise on its success with further bowstring arch bridge contracts, such as Balclutha Bridge and Fairfield Bridge, which are New Zealand Historic Places Trust Category I historic places. “Pahiatua Town Bridge was the first in the sequence of 1930s reinforced concrete bowstring arch bridges and the third of this type constructed in New Zealand, marking a key point in the development of this form of structure. “Pahiatua Town Bridge is also of special significance as part of concerted government efforts to proactively weather the economic crisis of the Great Depression, and it, therefore, became a statement of determination and positivity which was reiterated by Prime Minister Forbes at the bridge’s greatly anticipated opening celebrations. “It provided a vital link across the Mangatainoka River to the area’s railway station, [and] the creation of Pahiatua Town Bridge was a priority despite the expense of this prospect. “Pahiatua Town Bridge is of aesthetic significance because it is a major landmark within the townscape of Pahiatua, and at its opening ceremony was described as one of the most impressive bridges in the lower North Island. The visual appeal of the structure is the combined effect of its scale, and the repetition of its arch elements and motifs. Detailing, such as the curved and moulded entrance wall, the Art Deco lampposts, and bevelled edges, add further elegance to this bridge whose aesthetic values elevate it above its utilitarian function. Social significance “Pahiatua Town Bridge was opened by the prime minister and other dignitaries in 1932, and the celebrations surrounding this event demonstrate its considerable local social significance. “The bridge was greatly anticipated because it secured the town’s crucial link to its railway station, but its construction was also a positive statement of central and local government determination to help the country weather the financial crisis of the Great Depression. Therefore, from the outset, the structure was integral to the economy of the district, an emblem of hope for the local area and to an extent nationally, as well as a source of pride for citizens as an impressive entrance to Pahiatua. “Despite some instances of repair, and the underpinning project of the mid-1970s, Pahiatua Town Bridge is a technically accomplished early 1930s structure, with the use of the increasingly popular bridge material of reinforced concrete giving longevity to its bowstring arch form. Both functional and attractive, the bowstring arch design of the structure is a special . . . aspect because while the arches of the bridge are shallow in the tradition of the two earlier examples of this form of bridge, their design is less weighty which adds an air of elegance, a key feature of subsequent bowstring bridges.” This text is from Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga’s information about Pahiatua Town Bridge (List No 4029). The full story is available at , www.heritage.org.nz/ the-list/details/4029.

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