Bridge salute aims to defend NZ treasure

By Emily Norman emily.norman@age.co.nz -
1 comment
Friends of ANZAC Bridge Committee 2016. PHOTO/EVIE DEWES
Friends of ANZAC Bridge Committee 2016. PHOTO/EVIE DEWES

The Friends of ANZAC bridge, who saved what was once a "neglected and forgotten" structure in the middle of a cow paddock, are saluting their 10th anniversary of incorporation this year with a celebratory lunch.

Formed in 2006, the group's volunteers have returned the war memorial bridge south of Eketahuna to its former glory, later becoming a heritage site, and a bridge of national significance, unique within New Zealand.

In 2003, Dr Kay Flavell, director of New Zealand Pacific Studio Artists' Residency Centre in Masterton, began rallying community support for a restoration project for what was then "a neglected local bridge".

Her work brought families of the district together, shaping a new generation of volunteers who are now an organisation of 90 dedicated members.

"This was one of the most moving and challenging projects I've ever worked on," Dr Flavell said.

"Many different kinds of bureaucracy - local and national, to struggle with - but an ever-growing group of passionate Friends, made up of relatives and friends of the nine people commemorated on the bridge, overcome all obstacles."

Dr Flavell, who now lives in California, was happy to see the growing support for the bridge over the past 10 years.

"It's easy to feel tearful about this little bridge because it means so much to so many people. We together brought the bridge back to life. I feel very honoured to have been able to play a part in the process, and I am thrilled that it is continuing."

Membership secretary Lynette Dewes said all of the volunteers are passionate about their work at the bridge because it is a "rare and special place within New Zealand".

"We've saved a national treasure, really," she said.

"And it's part of our drive at the moment to have a conservation plan in place to make sure that the bridge is safe for future generations."

Friends of ANZAC Bridge is working to have the ownership of the bridge and its surrounding reserve transferred from NZTA to DOC this year, and have received funding from Lottery World War I Commemorations, Environment and Heritage Committee to prepare a formal conservation plan for the bridge.

The group has organised a fundraising lunch on April 24 to celebrate their 10th anniversary at the Eketahuna Community Centre. The guest speaker is Jack Hayes, the new patron following the death of Patricia Baucke at the end of last year. Tickets are $30 per person, RSVP, by April 18, to 06 378 9967.

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