It was a proud day for Whangarei as thousands flocked to see the official opening of the new $32 million Te Matau a Pohe bridge.
Saturday's celebrations for the Lower Hatea River bridge kicked off at 6am with a traditional dawn blessing complete with three waka going under the new structure.
Whangarei Mayor Morris Cutforth described the blessing as "the best I've ever attended".
"It made me very proud to be mayor, and it made me very proud to be from Whangarei."
The streets and roundabout on the Hatea Drive entrance to the bridge were crowded with people eagerly anticipating the bridge bascule's first lift.
"It's just amazing - it feels like half of Whangarei is here," Mr Cutforth said.
Eight-year-old Max Campbell from Glenbervie hadn't yet seen the bridge in action. "It's exciting and I am looking forward to it," he said.
So was 100-year-old Shelagh Mason, who was gearing up for her ride in the Kamo Home and Village van as part of the procession.
"I just wish I was doing the driving," she said, laughing.
"It's a proud and happy day. It's such a wonderful thing for Whangarei."
Shirley Warner-Sammers was preparing her miniature horses Dreena and Basil for the parade.
"The atmosphere is brilliant. There are smiles on everyone's faces," she said.
Once the official speeches were over the bascule was raised and a flotilla of more than 50 boats made their way through.
Onlookers started swarming forward in preparation for the parade and their chance to walk across the new bridge.
The bascule was lowered and the parade began, led by a Packard tourer carrying Mr Cutforth and Whangarei MP Phil Heatley, who officially opened the bridge.
They were followed by classic cars, hot rods, trucks, brass and pipe bands, to name a few,with hundreds of pedestrians behind them.
Mr Heatley later described the experience as "very cool".
"The bridge is wonderful and it clearly works well," he said.
He felt extremely privileged to be one of the first across the bridge, especially in a Packard.
"It's been a long-term project, a partnership between government and council, and national and local companies," he said.
"It's very, very positive."