Rutherford Junior High Year 7 student leaders had a lesson in leadership on Friday when they accompanied leaders from other walks of life to the Bridge to Nowhere in the Mangapurua Valley.

Some of the scenery on the Whanganui River. Picture / Paul Brooks
Some of the scenery on the Whanganui River. Picture / Paul Brooks

The trip entailed a van ride to Pipiriki where Ken Howarth took the group up the Whanganui River by jetboat to the Mangapurua Landing. From there everyone walked the well-maintained tracks to the bridge, the last remnant of the failed Mangapurua farming settlement.
Included in the party were mayor Hamish McDouall, Whanganui District councillor Rob Vinsen and his wife Lynne, WDC principal adviser — corporate / customer solutions manager Marianne (Maz) Cavanagh, Rev Caleb Rowe from the Anglican parish of Christ Church, and teachers and support staff of Rutherford Junior High, the seven student leaders and this reporter.

Disembarking at Mangapurua Landing. Picture / Paul Brooks
Disembarking at Mangapurua Landing. Picture / Paul Brooks

Rutherford Junior High principal Diane Henare explained the purpose of the trip.
"We always take the Year 7s going into Year 8, to pull them more into leadership. They've been leaders all year, but it's stepping them up to that next level ready for Year 8 leadership.
"This trip is about showing our kids the leaders of our city and different forms of leadership."

Some of the guests had accompanied the school on a recent educational trip to Whanganui's sister city in Japan and Diane wanted those who had not yet done so, to see the Bridge to Nowhere.

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The day began at 8am.
Piripi Blake, "outgoing board chair, incoming Rutherford deputy principal", said a karakia, which was followed by a round of introductions, then everyone left the school in two vans at 8.15 on Friday morning.

After a toilet stop and leg stretch at Hiruharama, we drove on to Pipiriki and the office of Whanganui River Adventures. Ken Howarth doled out lifejackets, instructed us in their use, and all 19 of us fitted comfortably into the powerful 20-seater jetboat for the ride upriver. Ken occasionally stopped the boat at places of interest and always slowed to allow easy passage for canoeists, of which there were plenty. The river was busy.

At Mangapurua Landing we left the boat and trekked the easy track to the Bridge to Nowhere on the Mangapurua, where Ken expertly recounted the history of the ill-fated farming community on land provided to returned servicemen by the New Zealand Government after World War 1.

The famous Bridge to Nowhere. Picture / Paul Brooks
The famous Bridge to Nowhere. Picture / Paul Brooks
Rutherford Junior High principal Diane Henare waves from the Bridge to Nowhere. Picture / Paul Brooks
Rutherford Junior High principal Diane Henare waves from the Bridge to Nowhere. Picture / Paul Brooks

The trip home included a stop at Te Ao Marama, a marae high above the river upstream from Pipiriki. There, after a long climb and a powhiri, we enjoyed a large lunch provided by the marae and looked at the restoration work being undertaken to bring the buildings back into service. The wharepuni is an example of old style building, complete with raupo remnants in the ceiling.

The jetboat trip back to Pipiriki included a number of exhilarating spins (doughnuts) on the river, with our young student leaders yelling for more!