Opiki School is holding a community picnic beside the tall concrete chimney (a remnant of the former Tane flaxmill) by the Opiki suspension bridge on November 30.

The bridge served as a toll bridge for many years until 1969 when the present bridge on State Highway 56 was completed over the Manawatu River.

The suspension bridge was constructed in 1917 and opened early in 1918 to carry flax from the nearby Tane Mill across the river for loading at Rangiotu on to the Palmerston North-Foxton railway line. At Foxton wharf the flax was loaded onto coastal ships and eventual export.

When worldwide demand for flax fibre dropped during the 1920s and prices fell, the Tane Mill ceased operations. The collapse coincided with the yellow-leaf disease which affected the flax plants in the Makerua swamp.


The land in Opiki was then cultivated, put into pasture, surveyed into small blocks and sold for settlers for farming. The settlers wanted direct access to Palmerston North and the bridge was made available. Children in the district crossed the bridge to attend Rangiotu School until the Opiki School was opened in 1928.

The bridge and Tane mill were constructed by the Tane Hemp Company of which Hugh Akers was a partner. After the mill ceased Hugh Akers took ownership of the bridge and, in time, had a house built at the bridge and employed a toll-keeper to fund the regular maintenance work required. The charge per car was 10 cents during 1967-69.

The school picnic at the site is 12-2pm. The school children will be doing activities 1920s style - egg and spoon races, tug-of-war etc. Great-great-grandchildren of Hugh Akers are current pupils at Opiki School. Entrance to the drive leading to the bridge is on the bend on the Opiki side of the bridge near the 80km/h sign.

This year, 2018, also marks 100 years since the Opiki woolshed was built (some materials being from disused flaxmills) and also the swaggers' whare near the woolshed. The whare was built to accommodate the frequent swaggers who wandered in from the road for a feed and bed.

For many years the woolshed (at 974 Opiki Rd) served as a communal facility for local sheep farmers who did not have their own sheds. Up until the 1960s neighbours walked their sheep up the road for shearing and dipping in the swim-dip.

For further info please contact Opiki School ph 3291 740.