The Fitzherbert Bridge was responsible for the economic growth of Palmerston North reckons Venky Kannan. And that's a big part of his inspiration designing the lighting for Palmerston North's newest bridge, He Ara Kotahi.

The new walking and cycling bridge across the Manawatū River is due to open to the public mid-year and is also expected to play an important role in the economy of the city.

"We've got a number of underpinning programmes and plans that enable us to be an eco-city," chief infrastructure officer Tom Williams said. "This is one of our big catalyst projects that helps us realise those goals.

"The design of the bridge seeks to give the perception that the bridge is actually floating across the river, so it's really aesthetically pleasing and conducive with the environment."

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Tom Williams hopes
Tom Williams hopes "to give the perception that the bridge is actually floating across the river". Photograph / Georgie Ormond

At night both He Ara Kotahi and Fitzherbert Bridge will be a spectacle of lights, and like Palmerston North's famous clock tower, the lights can change to match any event.

Almost $500,000 of ambient lighting will illuminate both bridges and connecting pathways, keeping users safe.

Kannan's colour design also refers to local Māori history and he had a particularly poetic vision for it.

"There's been a lot of fights and deaths along one side of the river so we wanted to give respect to that," Kannan said.

"So the warmth of the cycle bridge, the heat of the river, the summer of the river, and the respect to the people who laid down their lives - that's the story of the cycle bridge and one side of the pathway.

"Winter, colourful, colour changing - that's the Fitzherbert Esplanade so it's a complete loop we've designed."

The new bridge creates another link between Massey University and Palmerston North, cutting out almost 4km for walkers and cyclists.

The 'Star Path' is said to be a first for Australisia. Photograph / PNCC
The 'Star Path' is said to be a first for Australisia. Photograph / PNCC

And the icing on the cake for nocturnal travellers? A pathway dubbed "the star-path" made from luminous rocks.

"The star path is the first in Australasia that lights up with the luminous quality of the sun," Williams said. "So it's a first and it's something we're really proud of."

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