Anyone who has watched Taika Waititi's much-loved work Boy, will recognise the Raukokore Bridge, a key filming location.

Scene from the movie Boy on the Raukokere Bridge in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. Photo / File
Scene from the movie Boy on the Raukokere Bridge in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. Photo / File

However, if you travel down State Highway 35 to Ōpōtiki, there's another well-known bridge residents say is looking "derelict".

They're pushing for a spruce-up of the Waioeka River Bridge, the only western entrance to the town.

Ōpōtiki lawyer Tania Te Whenua has collected almost 1000 signatures in a petition to get the bridge cleaned, and has called on Waiariki MP Tāmati Coffey, the New Zealand Transport Agency, and the Ōpōtiki District Council to act.

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She told the Rotorua Daily Post the residents used to be proud of their bridge when it was kept spick and span but "in its present state it is falling apart".

"As the gateway to the town and the East Cape, it sends our township and our visitors a strong message of neglect from central government and its agencies... Yet we are a hub of horticultural, agricultural and forestry activity."

The bridge marks the intersection between State Highway 2 from Gisborne, State Highway 2 from Tauranga, and State Highway 35 from the top of the East Cape.

"I'm concerned the NZTA plan to spend $655 million on road maintenance within the Bay of Plenty over the next three years yet most of that is earmarked for Tauranga and Rotorua," Te Whenua said.

She hopes central government will share residents' pride in their township, "to stop neglecting our infrastructure and to maintain it with the same degree of attention they afford the rest of the country".

Te Whenua plans to present the petition to the Minister of Transport Phil Twyford and Associate Minister Shane Jones, who is also Minister for Regional Economic Development.

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Liz Stevenson is one resident who has signed the petition.

She has spent most of her life in Ōpōtiki and said it had been a long time since the bridge had a good scrub.

"It's the first thing visitors see. Little towns need these things to be kept in good order to make people want to come. We have such a beautiful area."

She said the bridge used to be frequently waterblasted.

"Now locals want to do it themselves, it looks that bad. It's pretty rough."

Ōpōtiki mayor John Forbes said the council has pushed the transport agency to improve the bridge's state for a long time.

"It's not as simple as it may seem. It was once just a matter of blasting it, which cost around $10,000 to $20,000 at most. Now I understand the cost is more like $500,000, which was quite a shock to me, but because of all the rules and regulations, they need to make sure there is no negative impact on the stream, and put in scaffolding and netting."

He said, "it's just not good enough, but I understand why they are nervous to do it".

When Waiariki MP Tāmati Coffey recently met with Te Whenua and the district council and visited the bridge, he said it was in a "***ty state" and had also taken the matter up with the transport agency.

Caught up the Opotiki District Council to talk abojt issues, including the shitty state of the Waioeka Bridge.

Posted by Tamati Coffey - Labour MP for Waiariki on Monday, 25 February 2019

The agency's Bay of Plenty system manager, Rob Campbell, said it was aware of the community's request for repainting and cleaning the town's "gateway".

"It is important to understand the agency is currently working on the prioritisation of a number of projects and establishing what can be realistically funded under the National Land Transport Programme. Our priority is to ensure a safe and resilient network across the country.

"Structural and strengthening work was completed on the bridge in 2018 to upgrade the capacity to carry heavy vehicles and we are satisfied it meets all safety requirements. We continue to work with the council on possible solutions for the cleaning of the Waioeka Bridge."

Last weekend the Waioeka Bridge was closed for four hours after a fatal crash nearby.

Witnesses said traffic was backed up for kilometres, and some left their cars to travel on foot, because the fastest detour to the township was hours long.

Te Whenua's petition can be signed online here https://www.change.org/p/tania-te-whenua-clean-the-waioeka-bridge, and she is also collecting written signatures in Ōpōtiki.