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Stronger bridge a link in the trail

South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] has secured central government funding to stabilise the newly built cycle bridge across the Tauwharenīkau River and to build a 2km cycleway alongside Underhill Rd out of Featherston.

The bridge is one of the first links in Wairarapa’s Five Towns Trail Network, a long term plan developed in 2021 to build almost 200km of cycle trails linking Masterton, Carterton, Greytown, Featherston, and Martinborough.

The latest $170,00 of funding comes from Kānoa, the regional economic development unit of the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment [MBIE].

The same investment unit paid $1.36m for the bridge’s construction last year, but it needed further strengthening to stop it from wobbling up and down when strong winds blew down the valley, something initially unforeseen by the engineers.

The 166m suspension bridge is one of the longest in the country.

SWDC has secured funding to stabilise the Tauwharenikau cycling bridge and extend the cycleway along Underhill Rd.

It has been built 15m downstream of the rail bridge, which it is strapped to, to prevent sideways movement in high winds.

SWDC operations and partnerships manager James O’Connor said the latest funding paid for cables to hold the bridge deck down, stopping up-and-down movement.

The 2km cycleway will keep cyclists off the unsealed section of Underhill Rd, which O’Connor said will improve cyclists’ safety because the stretch is used by many trucks travelling to and from a nearby quarry.

O’Connor said he expects trail construction to finish in November, in time for summer.

When it’s completed, cyclists will be able to travel off-road from the end of the sealed section of Underhill Rd out of Featherston.

They won’t need to cycle on the road again until rejoining Underhill Rd on the Greytown side of the Tauwharenīkau River.

Greytown Trails Trust has been working on the bridge project since 2015.

Trust chair John Bushnell said he sees the bridge as an important first river crossing link in the proposed Five Towns Trail Network.

“The idea is to create a network of bike trails across the entire valley, which in the long run would need bridges across the Waiohine, Waingawa, and Ruamahanaga,” he said.

Bushnell said the Trust is interested in developing a new 5km trail connecting the Tauwharenīkau bridge to the existing trail between Woodside Station and Greytown

“Now we’ve got the first runs on the board with this project, we’ve now got some experience and expertise in this area, and we’re very happy to share that and to work with others around the valley to try and make the network a reality.”

O’Connor said there are several New Zealand examples where trails have helped develop and revitalise regional economies.

“That’s where I see Five Towns could be eventually: it could become a destination trail network with tourism business hanging off it,” he said.

“And then you can have mana whenua, artisan businesses, and accommodation providers helping tell the story of the region in areas that you couldn’t normally access.”

SWDC deputy mayor Melissa Sadler-Futter said the wider trail network will be built over many years.

“It’s a long-term plan with lots of players and a pretty big price tag loosely attached to it,” she said.

But Sadler-Futter noted the new bridge is already drawing cyclists – the trail counter measured 23,000 people using it in the past year.

“We’re already hearing anecdotally about cyclists coming to Featherston and Greytown from the Hutt Valley and Wellington over the rail trail because the bridge exists,” she said.

“That will only continue to increase as the trail is chipped away at and improved.”


  1. The bridge over the Tauherenikau is brilliant. What is needed is a similar bridge over the Waiohine River to extend the trail from Greytown to Carterton. Currently cyclists have to cross 3 narrow bridges on State Highway 2, which pose a significant danger to them.

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Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age who regularly writes about education. He is originally from Wellington and is interested in environmental issues and public transport.

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