Monday, September 12, 2011

How about a plaque for old Mangere Bridge?

In 2015, the old (second) Mangere Bridge turns 100. Could anyone in the Auckland Council please consider taking up the idea of an interpretive plaque -- even if just a bit of board tacked to a fence so we can still save rates monies in this time of belt-tightening -- to commemorate how important this was to Mangere and Onehunga?

Mangere Bridge No. 1 (1875-1915)

...The Onehunga bridge is rapidly approaching completion. A little more nailing and tarring of the timbers and the job will be done. All the celebrities in our town are discussing as to how the bridge should be opened. And what preparations, what ceremonies, and what amount of eating, drinking, and speechifying are necessary to be had upon so great an occasion. At the opening of the railway from Auckland to Onehunga the people of Onehunga were only regaled with a smell of the viands at host Sullivan's when the dignitaries of the province celebrated the event. On that occasion, the people of Onehunga were of poor account with the magnates provincial. On the forthcoming event our local dignitaries are determined, if they can, to assert themselves, no matter what amount of cold water may be thrown upon their efforts to the contrary notwithstanding.

Dr. Purchas has been scratching his head and looking awful things in an homeopathical way, and suggests a picnic. Gillman, the chemist, with a knowing look, is agreeable to a picnic, with the addition of a dinner. Everybody says that Capt. Wing, our harbour master, should look after the flags, as he knows how to tackle the bunting. Captain Symonds, it is reported, is agreeable to assent to anything that is pleasant, and will shout with the biggest side. Mr Jackson, our man of all work, has his pen in the ink ready to draw up any amount of resolutions that any collection of wiseheads may agree upon, that the affair may go off with all due decorum. Little Waller, the timber man, is ready to charter his little steamer the Tam 'o Shanter to run up and down the Manukau, so that everybody that likes may see how the bridge looks from a watery point of view. If there should be a dinner, O'Rorke our member to the G. A. must have his speech on the occasion. By the by, when will O'Rorke's speech come off (about) the Vogel business. I suppose we must give up all hopes of that speech now, because of the little affair of the bridge. To have to make two speeches within six months, will be too much for his nerves. If Mr O'Rorke should fail us in speechmaking, there's one man in the place that will make up for any deficiencies. Our host Hardington, of the Manukau, is ready and willing to make everybody jolly, and will have a small escort of cavalry paraded on the occasion (if allowed).

Major Gordon would have let the late Volunteers, had they been alive to fire a salute in honor of the affair, but the minds of our Volunteer soldiers having been poisoned by John Lundon, they have all become defunct, in consequence of taking in too much of Lundon's deleterious nonsense. Never mind, the Templars—as this is a watery occasion—will come out strong, with all sorts of banners of strange device. The people of Mangare are expected to meet those of Onehunga half-way on the bridge, and exchange mutual felicitations. Our old friend Courtenay will be there, and promises to be unusually tractable. The Highway Board is very busy, and must look after the toe paths.
It has been mildly suggested that the Highway Boards on both sides the Manukau will put some soft gravel on each side of the approaches to the bridge, for the newly laid stone in the roadway are plaguey hard to walk upon in these hot days; corns will not stand it. The ladies .promise to come out strong on the occasion, and the milliners of Onehunga have more than tkey can do. Let us hope the day of opening will be a fine one. Everybody here says, "Success to the Bridge, and may Onehunga flourish !"

Auckland Star 12 January 1875, p3

"Looking south east from the railway lines east of Onehunga wharf, showing men and children standing on the railway lines, the old bridge and Mangere (background)", 1904, reference 4-3177, Sir George Grey Specual Collections,    Auckland Libraries

"Looking west over Manukau Harbour showing the old Mangere Bridge," 1913, reference 4-2525, Sir Georgew Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library

Mangere Bridge No. 2 (1915-present)
The new ferro-concrete bridge across the Manukau Harbour, connecting Onehunga and Mangere, was formally opened for traffic yesterday afternoon by the Prime Minister (the Rt. Hon. W. F. Massey).

The Premier congratulated the local authorities and the district upon having replaced the old bridge with so fine a structure, and dwelt at some length on the importance to the country of road and bridge facilities for the carriage of produce to the markets.

Northern Advocate 1 June 1915

"Looking south from just west of Mangere Bridge showing Mangere Mountain (right background) and the bridge (left),"    9 May 1940, reference 4-2646, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.

Mangere Bridge No. 3 (1985-present), and beyond, No. 4 (2010-present)

According to Janice Mogford in The Onehunga Heritage (1989), local MP Hugh Watt started pressuring the Government in the 1950s for a new Mangere Bridge across the Manukau, to save on maintenance and to cater for increased traffic flows. Work finally began in April 1973, but was best by the longest running industrial dispute up to that time in New Zealand, halting construction for two and a half years. Work began again in 1979. The new bridge opened to pedestrians 19 February 1983, "the first people to walk across were, appropriately, a group of early Mangere residents who had participated in a similar event in 1915." It opened to traffic four days later.

Bridge number 4 is part of State Highway 20's enhancements as part of a ring route for the region.

I thought for a minute, when I visited Bridge No. 2, that the writing I could see on one of the metal posts at least referred to the name "Mangere Bridge". But no -- it was just tagging.

I hear from someone I know who lives in Mangere these days that the 1915 bridge is popular. People walk there. They fish there. They stand and contemplate the waters of the Manukau in all her moods, there. Something for the future, letting the generations to come know why we like the bridge today, and explaining its past, would be great.


  1. I remember driving across the old Mangere bridge to visit my aunt in the late 70s early 80s and i remember it being a vaguely harrowing experience... Then again I was quite young then. I do remember the new bridge opening in 1983 though.

  2. Lisa, we have shared your blog on Friends of the Manukau Harbour FB - love your blog and to have you as a friend on the FotMH
    Friends of the Civic
    Friends of the Manukau Harbour

  3. Thanks, Leonie! There's some other posts about the harbour here as well. You're welcome to any of the info. Cheers!

    Your Facebook page is great.