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6 September 2022

The opening of the new Whitipoua walking and cycling bridge across the Waipoua River today (6 September) adds a spectacular physical and cultural asset to the Waipoua recreation trail.

Masterton District Council approved construction of the bridge in 2020, with resource consent then required for the site near Bentley Street and Railway Crescent..

The bridge’s design aims to maximise accessibility, with ramps at each end and a capacity of 100 people at one time.

The name Whitipoua brings together the original name of the Waipoua Awa and whiti, which means to cross over.

The bridge is lined on each side by 50 engraved paewhiri (totara boards) created by nine mana whenua artists in close collaboration with technician John Hart using Fab Lab’s amazing CNC and Laser technology.

Those crossing the bridge will effectively travel along many illustrated stories of the past and present, leading us all to a hopeful future.

Opening the bridge with kaumatua Mike Kawana, Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson said it was more than simply a new way across the river.

“This is a beautiful bridge, with an important link to mana whenua that highlights the significance of the environment and the history of this place.

“As well as enabling a complete walking circuit on both sides of the river, using the suspension bridge by Queen Elizabeth Park, I am sure the new Whitipoua Bridge will help to build an understanding of those who have enjoyed this place in the past.”

Sam Te Tau coordinated the creation of the paewhiri.

“We had a tremendous response from the artists involved. They have created some beautiful pieces, but some are also quite confronting in their content. That reflects some of the elements of the past and present.

“The paewhiri acknowledge those tūpuna who are no longer with us and the fauna and flora that were in this area, with the message that we need to restore te taiao (the environment).

“It is hoped that this bridge will be a reminder to everyone of who we are as tangata whenua, and acknowledging that we are all on this waka together and most importantly, that our unity is our strength.”