In a sparsely populated region like Marlborough with a population distributed over a huge geographic area, the humble bridge is a critical piece of engineering in terms of its utility value enabling people to remain connected to each other and the outside world. According to the Marlborough District Council, there are more than 340 bridges in the region that it is responsible for. This does not include bridges on state highways that are maintained by the NZTA.
Several years ago, I had a call from someone holding a family reunion. They had been searching the web for an image of a bridge their ancesctors constructed in the Awatere Valley, and the best image they had been able to locate was right here on Marlborough Online. They requested permission to use the photo, and in return furnished a great deal of history about the bridge including historic photographs and the story of their family involvement.
Bridges tend to be something people don't give a second thought to when functioning as desired, however they provide vital links in a rugged geography marked by numerous rivers and stream beds that can remain dry much of the year, but turn into raging torrents overnight.
When bridges don't meet transportation needs, they soon become major focal points for community concern, as witnessed by the former road-rail bridge over the Awatere which had the single lane road deck removed and a modern two lane concrete bridge constructed along side, or the historic Grove Road bridge over the Opawa River with its distinctive humps, with its inability to accept large trucks travelling in opposite directions simultaneously.
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