Ōpaoa (Opawa) River Bridge

Last Modified: 12-11-2020 9:14


Ōpaoa (Opawa) River Bridge
Ōpaoa (Opawa) River Bridge
© Christopher Cookson  License this image

The Ōpaoa River (formerly spelled as Opawa) Bridge or Grove Road Bridge on State Highway One at the northern entrance to Blenheim was constructed between 1915-1917 as the first concrete bowstring arch design in New Zealand.  

The bridge is recognised as a category 1 historic place. Due to the narrowness of the bridge modern trucks and other large vehicles were not able to negotiate the bridge in both directions simultaneously, resulting in the New Zealand Transport Agency being allocated a budget by government to fund a replacement bridge. In May 2018, NZTA approved a budget of $21 million to construct a new bridge alongside the historic bridge,  which will be retained for pedestrian and cycle traffic. The new bridge was completed in 2020.

The bridge is not the first bridge built over the Ōpaoa River, with a previous bridge constructed in 1869, but collapsing in 1878. From that time till the current bridge was built, traffic had to cross the river by boat, or by using the rail bridge.

The bridge was designed by John Dudley Holmes for the New Zealand Public Works Department before the First World War. Although construction began in 1915, the war delayed completion.

Key Facts

Span: 170m

Built: 1915-1917

Official Opening: Tuesday the 11th of December 1917 at 12.30pm by Hon. G. W. Russell, the Minister for Internal Affairs.

Designer: John Dudly Holmes

Design: Concrete bowstring arch

Cost: Approx 21,000 pounds.

Location: North end of Grove Road at northern entrance to Blenheim. (Latitude: -41.500189 Longitude: 173.96194)

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Cookson, C. (2020). Ōpaoa (Opawa) River Bridge. Retrieved October, 28, 2021, from