The Matapihi Rail Bridge could be graced with lighting and murals if a Tauranga woman's ideas gain traction.

Helen Knight this week presented a submission to Tauranga City Council about her ideas to make Matapihi Rail Bridge a feature of Tauranga's waterfront, while also making it safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

Mrs Knight came up with the ideas when she was doing a project for her Bachelor of Creative Industries, for which she needed to find something in the community she could improve.

"I picked the Matapihi Bridge because it was pretty desolate and nothing happening there.
"I did a survey online asking people whether the bridge was safe. I thought a bit of lighting at night would enhance it and make it attractive."


Mrs Knight said about 200 people a day used the bridge and it lacked anything to keep people safe at night.

She researched lighting options and believed solar LED lighting was the best choice as it could be off-the-grid and would not need trenching. This could also take the form of lighting on the pathway itself, incorporating attractive designs.

Coloured lights could be used to mark special occasions, such as red lighting on Anzac Day, Mrs Knight said.

"We need something different in Tauranga to bring the people in."

During her research, Mrs Knight discovered the bridge had a sad history.

About 33 people had died jumping from the bridge to avoid trains between 1924, when the bridge was built, and the 1950s, when the clip-on walkway was installed.

A visiting Government minister was in the town during a drowning in 1956 and made an offer to the people of Matapihi and surrounding areas - help fundraise for the bridge and he would secure the rest of the funding.

"The whole community got together with it," Mrs Knight said. "There's quite a bit of history to the bridge."

Mrs Knight also suggested adding murals to the pillars on the bridge and revamping the ramp on the Tauranga side with artwork.

She would also like to see a memorial to the people who died on the bridge.

Deputy mayor Kelvin Clout said the council had been impressed by Mrs Knight's submission and it was worth further consideration.

No costings were done for her ideas so Mr Clout said it was possible the council would not make a decision on it during the Annual Plan deliberations from May 24 to 26 but would ask for further information from staff.

"The concept was well-received and it certainly would provide both good lighting in terms of safety and as well as being a little bit of an attraction.

"The idea I liked the best was using solar panels to power them so it's off-grid and a more environmentally-friendly option."