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New Saltwater Creek bridge connects water and land through toi Māori design

A much-anticipated new Saltwater Creek bridge with artwork designed by toi Māori artist Fayne Robinson has opened, combining striking design with modern, safe access for cyclists and pedestrians in the central city.

Te Arawhiti ki Matangi Āwhio, replaced the previous bridge spanning Saltwater Creek near the Trafalgar Centre. It was officially opened by Nelson Mayor Nick Smith and kaumātua on Friday 5 July.

It provides an essential connection to the Maitai shared pathway and ensures safe and easy access for tamariki to Auckland Point School, as well as for visitors to and from the Trafalgar Centre for events.

Mayor Nick says the old bridge, built in the 1980s, had corroded, its steel beams delaminated, and its wooden components rotted.

“This new bridge is about Nelson keeping up with renewals of our infrastructure and us being a pedestrian and cycling friendly city. We have invested in not just making it functional but also artistic, as it is near the main entrance to our city and used by thousands of visitors accessing the Trafalgar Centre.”

The artwork, designed by toi Māori artist Fayne Robinson, is an eye-catching design made up of two alternating triangular panels, the wheku and the kōwhaiwhai.

He says the panels acknowledge the eight iwi of Te Tauihu.

“The kōwhaiwhai design represents the area through mahinga kai (traditional food gathering sites and practices).

“It connects to the water and the land, acknowledging this ancient site and its significance to the tribal wellbeing through food provision.

“The wheku represents a dimensional presence of ngā iwi,” he says.

The new bridge is 13.28 metres long and 3.75m wide.

Its structure is a single span steel warren truss with a hardwood deck for increased durability, and the steel trusses have been sealed to protect against corrosion.

Nelson City Council’s Group Manager Infrastructure, David Light, says the bridge was ready for an upgrade.

“Previous Council records from the 80’s aren’t always the most detailed. There’s information about the structure and abutments that we could only obtain after removing the bridge.

“The support and protection of major utilities on either side of the road were of the utmost importance during construction, and given the cables provide power to the Port, it was pretty important we knew where all the cables were.”

Given its location, some aspects of the build required multiple locations around Trafalgar Centre to close for traffic management, including the removal of the old bridge and positioning of the new bridge.

Council worked to ensure these major closures would be done outside of the Giants home games and the kapa haka event. The original schedule was to complete the bridge at the end of June, but this was shifted by a week to accommodate some events. The project was completed to the budget of $630,000.

Auckland Point School was another important factor, and Council staff worked with the school to minimise disruption.

Acting Principal Janeen Strawbridge says many parents park at the Trafalgar Centre and walk their kids across the bridge to the school.

“Once Council made us aware of the bridge closure, we had to figure out the timings for the extra distance to get into the city and also organise a drop-and-go system outside of the kura to allow safe commuting between home and school.

“Auckland Point School tamariki have been eagerly watching the new bridge construction. Building the scaffolding, removing the old bridge and then the new bridge being dropped into position has been keenly observed.

“We regularly use the Saltwater Creek bridge between our kura and the Trafalgar Centre. This is our gateway to adventures into the city venues such as the library, Suter Gallery, Queens Gardens and the museum. On Friday’s, our scooter club zooms across the bridge to enjoy the skate park during lunch time.

“The six weeks have passed quickly, and we are all excited to be using the new bridge, as well as meeting and working with the artist that has designed the new bridge. Fayne is going to recreate the design into stencils for us to work with teaching the tamariki the meaning of each design,” Janeen says.

Just hours after its official opening, the tamariki from Auckland Point School quickly put the bridge to work, crossing it to return books to the Elma Turner Library.

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