Every now and again, by a sheer miracle, we have a cycling project in Auckland that seems to hit a sweet spot. It moves like magic from inception, through concept to funding and design, a contract is let, construction begins and progresses to completion. As we’re about to celebrate ribbon cutting on the stunning new Māngere walking and cycling bridge, Ngā Hau Māngere, this Saturday, it feels as though this project has been so blessed as a magic project.
The bridge’s name was gifted by local Iwi Te Waiohua and is described by Kathleen Wilson as meaning ‘gentle lazy winds’. She says it’s not just about celebrating a new bridge but also the restoration of a name and ‘a treasured historic connection between Māngere and Onehunga that has existed since time immemorial’. Other residents of Tāmaki Makaurau share in celebrating the creation of a magnificent landmark bridge to connect us from the south to the northern foreshores of the Manukau Harbour.
The project entered the public sphere officially with the lodging of resource consents for the bridge in 2016, and the granting of Council consents by the middle of the year. We all know this is remarkably smooth progress, and tells of a well managed process by all of those involved. The bridge replaces the old concrete bridge opened in 1915 for vehicle traffic, and since 1983 had loyally served as a popular fishing spot and vital walking and cycling link.
Bike Auckland has supported the project throughout its various stages, beginning with a strong submission of support to the resource consent application; to more hands-on work with Waka Kotahi to help plan and manage the interim harbour crossing arrangements for walking, wheelchairs, pushchairs, scooting and biking once the old bridge was demolished; to working alongside other stakeholders in a series of productive workshops to give feedback as the detailed design and construction evolved. We were initially concerned when Waka Kotahi first contacted us with their decision to demolish the old bridge and move access to the underpass on the vehicle bridge. The underpass had a grim reputation, known for its graffiti, broken glass and poor lighting. Waka Kotahi quickly applied white paint, CCTV surveillance and more regular cleaning, but we knew people would not feel safe until 24 hour on-site security presence was in place. We made this request firmly and successfully, and went on to work closely with Waka Kotahi, as it took a while for road cycling groups to adapt to the tight turns and confined space in the underpass. We were pleased when a local security firm was employed for the supervision, as its staff knew the locals and brought handy knowledge to the job.
It’s been good working in the community liaison group alongside local board and business association members as well as representatives of local schools giving feedback on different aspects of the project. Our representatives, Jane Admore and Richard Barter, have wide knowledge of cycling in Auckland and both are very familiar in biking to the Airport and Māngere and Onehunga areas. Jane loved cycling to the liaison group meetings along the SH20 cycleway from her home in Grey Lynn. She reminds us not all lycra-clad people cycling to the Airport are there for recreation, referring to a pilot she met on a Waiheke ferry who said it was great to ‘sharpen-up’ by cycling to the airport before getting behind the plane controls.
The dawn blessing for the start of the bridge construction in November 2019 was a highly auspicious occasion, with calm weather and twinkling lights on the harbour. I was lucky to attend it and to meet construction managers from McConnell Dowell, the successful contractors. As the project progressed smoothly I developed a strong respect for the contractor’s teamwork with sub-contractors, as they worked through the tough days of Covid to deliver this tricky project so seamlessly, and to achieve this August 2022 opening.
For those who enjoy the blow by blow record of bridge building you’ll be glad to know that Waka Kotahi’s impressive Communications team on the project have ensured there is a superb record of the various stages of the construction in the project gallery here.
The new bridge is remarkable in a number of respects, in addition to its superb design elements. It has an impressive width of 8m, increasing to 12m in width to create ‘bays’ for fishing and photography. When you visit the bridge take time to appreciate the story telling of the project, the artworks at key points on the bridge recording cultural and heritage stories of mana whenua and detailing of quotes from local children captured during the construction of the bridge. It’ll also be fun to watch waka ama and other boats passing under the bridge, free to explore the upper harbour in a way that was restricted by the old ‘sinking’ bridge.
The bridge is designed to have a special non-slip surface, but our agent Jane Admore advises us that the recent constant rain has made it difficult to get dry conditions to apply the material before the opening, so this will happen once the bridge has dried out. When that happens the underpass will be in use again for a spell. Waka Kotahi says once this operation is completed the underpass will be closed, due to the high costs of maintaining it as a safe and usable public space.
The weather forecast for Saturday shows a sun peeking out from the clouds – another auspicious sign for Ngā Hua Māngere! We invite you to join the opening celebration to welcome this fabulous new bridge to Tamaki Makaurau!