Ruth is the human interest reporter and a photographer for the Bay of Plenty Times.

'Unique' bridge will be a tourist attraction

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It is hoped an "iconic" cycle and walking bridge over the Wairoa River will become a tourist attraction contributing to the Bay economy.

The design of the $6.5 million Wairoa Bridge was unveiled last night at a ceremony at the Western Bay District Council chambers.

The bridge was designed by architect firm Warren and Mahoney and featured a curved, single span bridge with no piles in the water and an arch about 40 metres high at mid-point.

Part of the Omokoroa to Tauranga Cycle Trail, the bridge was set to be a major drawcard for the Bay of Plenty region after its completion in June 2018.

It will be built between the State Highway 2 bridge and Waimarino Adventure Park. Construction is expected to begin in July 2017.

The council's deputy chief executive and infrastructure manager Gary Allis said an iconic structure would attract more than just cyclists.

"Our vision is to have a bridge that becomes a tourist attraction, contributing to the region's amenities and economic development.

"We were looking for a unique creation, something that could be enjoyed by current and future generations. We're confident this bridge will do just that."

Mr Allis said four companies were invited to submit a design for the bridge and the winner was chosen by a panel of judges and tangata whenua.

Western Bay Mayor Garry Webber said the cycle trail, once completed, would provide a link between the growing township of Omokoroa and Tauranga's existing urban cycleway network.

New Zealand Community Trust chief executive Mike Knell announced a $1m grant towards to Omokoroa to Tauranga Cycle Trail at the event.

"The cycleway meets the trust's purpose of supporting sport and recreational opportunities," he said.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges, who spoke via video link at the presentation, said the bridge would have huge benefits for the region's tourism and for the health and lifestyle of residents.

"It's going to be a real drawcard in relation to, overall, an amazing cycle trail from Omokoroa to Tauranga for locals, commuters and tourists both from throughout New Zealand and around the world.

Tourism Bay of Plenty chief executive Kristin Dunne said the Wairoa Bridge would connect more than just the two banks of the river.

"Creating an icon is important because riders don't ride just for riding. Visitors ride so they can stop, they ride to see and to do. They ride to take photos of iconic scenery, natural and man made features. They ride to gather stories and then share these stories."

Ms Dunne said more than 1.3 million users visited the 22 great rides across New Zealand in 2015.

"For every dollar invested in a trail about $3.50 was returned. At a national level the return was valued at nearly $50m."

The new Wairoa Bridge. Photo/Supplied by Western Bay of Plenty District Council.
The new Wairoa Bridge. Photo/Supplied by Western Bay of Plenty District Council.

Ngati Kahu representative Lou Gates said the bridge ticked all the boxes for local hapu and was also the only design without any feet in the water.

"That was huge for us as tangata whenua. The arch is almost representative of our famous mountain Mauao."

Sport Bay of Plenty recreation team leader Jen Riley said the bike trail was an asset for Tauranga.

The estimated cost of the Omokoroa to Tauranga Cycle Trail project is between $10.2 and $11.7m.

The project is funded from a number of sources and includes:

- New Zealand Transport Agency - $3.8m
- The New Zealand Government - $1.5m
- Western Bay of Plenty District Council - $1.52m
- Tauranga City Council - $400,000
- Tauranga Energy Consumer Trust (TECT) - $1m
- Tauranga Round Table - $100,000
- Omokoroa Community Board - $60,000

- Bay of Plenty Times

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