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New ‘Papahua’ footbridge gets thumbs up all round

Old traditions die hard and Raglan children — along with the odd adult — were jumping from the new Kopua footbridge within minutes of its official opening last week, most undeterred by the extra 80cm in height despite a few comments about the rite-of-passage plunge having become a bit “dodgy”.

The extra height however didn’t faze the likes of 12-year-old Sean Dillon who reckoned it just made for “better bombs”. And pro skater/surfer Miles Ratima, who’s been jumping off the old footbridge for 15 years, was also quickly up for the twin challenges of the higher deck and a slippery tube-like handrail.
But for most of the 400-plus people who turned out for the 9.30am opening at Kopua Domain last Thursday it was a much more sedentary affair with speeches by the bridge designers, builders, kaumatua, Waikato district mayor Allan Sanson and ward councillor Clint Baddeley.

About 200 young Raglan Area School students also took part in the ceremony, singing waiata between the speeches.
Aurecon technical director John McNeil said the new bridge had been designed to last for 100 years. “It’s not these children but their grandchildren who will be looking after it.”
He described the bridge as “elegant and subtle”, and one which blended in with rather than overtook the landscape.

Cr Baddeley said it was “an auspicious day” and that as the local councillor he never thought he’d be present at the opening of a new footbridge.
He told the Chronicle he was “very happy” with the bridge which had one of the country’s top architects, Pete Bosley, behind it. His brief was to make something special for Raglan, and while the colour of the railings — inspired by paua and the sea — had been debated, it was a “point of difference” for Raglan.
Mayor Allan Sanson agreed the railings reflected the surrounds and acknowledged it had been a challenge to convince people that while the old bridge might look okay, it wasn’t and would soon be demolished.

He spoke of the day as one of endings and beginnings “as we cross the old and new bridges for the last and first time”.
With that, he and Cr Baddeley cut the red ribbon and led those gathered for the ceremony across the new bridge and back onto the old for their final walk across it.
At 2.2m wide, the new bridge — unlike the narrower older bridge a few metres to the south — looks set to easily accommodate not only pedestrians but also buggies, bicycles and no doubt bombers.

The latest $2.5 million structure has been named the Papahua Bridge after what’s known as the Papahua block on the domain side of the bridge, connecting the whole area to the town.

The bridge symbolically links the domain to the township, said Cr Baddeley. Its construction had also strengthened ties between Waikato District Council and local iwi Ngati Mahanga, which had originally gifted the domain to the council.
Thirty kaumatua blessed the new Raglan footbridge with ancient karakia or prayers at 5.30 on the Thursday morning, four hours ahead of the official opening.

Edith Symes

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