Two century-old railway bridges have been replaced by new state-of-the-art bike bridges, the next link in the chain for Onerahi's $1.5 million cycleway.
Cyclists who have had to hop off their bikes for fear of being impaled on the rusty edgings of the former 60cm-wide Waimahanga Bridges can now ride on uninterrupted, with the installation of the 2.5m-wide timber replacements.
The $330,000 bridges are now open for use ahead of an August ceremony which will open the entire 6km off-road route - spanning from the tip of Onerahi peninsula and along Riverside Drive into town. The bridges come as a new bridge has been constructed on the Waipu to Riverview Walkway/Cycleway.
Whangarei Okara Ward councillor Cherry Hermon, who also served on Whangarei District Council's walking and cycling reference group, said the Onerahi cycleway route was set to become popular with commuters, as well as having recreational value.
"There's a lot of appetite for that already," she said. She said the old bridges - 21m and 24m long - were built around 1910 as part of the railway line and used until the 1930s, at which stage the Boswell family converted a portion of the line into a walking track, part of what's known as the Waimahanga walkway.
Fellow reference group member Brian McLachlan said the community was still split on whether the length of the Waimahanga should be converted to a concreted path.
In the meantime, the council intended to add more compacted scoria to the track. "Half want it concreted, half don't - some want to maintain the natural ambience of the area."
Meanwhile in Waipu, a $350,000 cycleway built largely through community fundraising is nearing completion. This first stage of the project, one day expected to run all the way from the township to Waipu Cove, also included a 34m bridge.
The current route spanned the 2.5km between Waipu and Riverview Place. Waipu to Riverview Walkway/Cycleway secretary Angela Stolwerk said the bridge was good to go and was waiting on its code of compliance before it could open.
In 2015, WDC and the Government announced $4.81 million would be invested in developing cycleways in the district.
Further funding was made available from the Urban Cycleways Fund and NZTA's National Land Transport Fund, meaning more than $7 million is being spent on the three new routes to Kamo, Onerahi and Raumanga/Maunu.
WDC had also given the Waipu route $105,000 and planned to contribute more in the annual plan for this coming year.
All three bridges - two in Onerahi and one in Waipu - were built by kiwi firm Bridge It.
Stage 1 of the Onerahi route would open in August. This includes Beach Rd portion around the peninsula, which linked to the Waimahanga Track and in turn a 2.5m-wide concrete path running parallel to Riverside Drive.