It isn't quite finished yet, and won't be officially declared open until December, but Taipā's new bridge will begin carrying traffic in both lanes this afternoon.
No specific time has been set — the decision will be made on-site — but Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency senior manager project delivery Andrew Thackwray said while there was still some finishing work to be done, including a final seal and road markings, the bridge was ready for use.
"It's appropriate to open the bridge for the holiday weekend, as the project is all about improving the safe movement of summer holiday traffic through the town," Mr Thackwray said.
"Summer is coming, and we want to show what a difference the two-lane bridge will make to the town and its visitor traffic.
"We thank the people of Taipā for their patience and understanding during the bridge construction," he said.
"There's been quite a bit of disruption and restrictions in the main street as well. But now we have a safer, efficient bridge, as well as town centre improvements and more cycling and walking options."
The $19 million bridge was 107m long, he said, its most striking feature being the waka tauihu (prow) and taurapa (stern) end panels of a seafaring waka adorning each end of the structure, acknowledging Taipā as one of the first landing places in New Zealand of the Polynesian explorer Kupe.
The waka hourua (double-hulled sailing canoe) design and the pou whenua were the result of extensive collaboration between the NZTA and Ngāti Kahu hapū, MrThackwray saying the NZTA's close relationship with Ngāti Kahu had also seen the relocation of the monument commemorating fallen soldiers from the community from the shop carpark to a more prominent and deserving location.
"It was really important that we worked closely with local hapū to acknowledge Taipā's rich history, the significance of its river and estuary, and the role of the bridge in the town's future," he said.
"The bridge is a modern forward-looking structure with its 2.5m-wide shared path for pedestrians and cyclists. And the viewing platform acknowledges the bridge's place in the community as a summertime resting and diving spot for kids of all ages."
The new two-lane bridge opened to one lane of traffic on February 15, the other side being used as a stage for the deconstruction of the old one.