Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 37, September 1993

When Yorkshireman Samuel Charlton [Chalton -E], became the first European settler in the Netherton area m 1880, the only contact with the Paeroa side was by canoe or row-boat. When settlement increased a pontoon ferry was established working on a cable stretched across the Waihou. There was the problem of this occasionally interfering with the frequent steamer traffic to and from Paeroa and Te Aroha.

In 1913 the first bridge at this site was commenced but the outbreak of the 1st World War slowed progress. This bridge was largely wooden construction with a central steel "swing span" which would be turned parallel to the river flow to allow ships to pass through. The mechanism for this section had previously been used at Te Aroha. The bridge was eventually opened by Hon. W Fraser on 10 March 1915. A very good photo of the opening ceremony appears on page 37 of "From Gold to Green" by M J Cotter. When the stopbanks were constructed in the 1920's the bridge had to be considerably lengthened and passing bays provided in what was essentially a one-lane bridge. As motor vehicle traffic grew in both numbers and size many a jamb arose which took lengthy periods to "unscramble".

By the 1960's the situation had become unacceptable and with the Waihou Valley Flood Protection Scheme in the offing a decision was made to have a new bridge. Ministry of Works bridge staff who used to make regular checks of the condition of the wooden "under structure" said it was quite scary to be under the bridge when a heavily laden lorry passed over it. One man reckoned that the bridge was being held together by the cobwebs underneath it.

Puke Bridge - River in flood - Thursday, 20 May 1954

Puke Bridge - River in flood - Thursday, 20 May 1954

Puke (Ngahina) Bridge
Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 37, September 1993
Puke Bridge - River in flood - Thursday, 20 May 1954

In late 1965 a contract was awarded to the Rope Construction Co Ltd to build a new bridge with pre-stressed concrete piles and girders. Cost £130,000 Length 1219 feet (393 metres) Useable carriageway width 82 feet (26.5 m) The new bridge was opened for use on 17 May 1967 but the report in the Hauraki Plains Gazette seems to indicate that no official opening ceremony was held.

At the western end the bridge deck is a considerable height above the surrounding land (to allow for the height of the stopbanks). This required lengthy approach fills and the weight of this fill tended to squeeze the underlying weak ground sideways causing "dips" to appear in the top surface. Eventually light weight pumice was brought in to reduce the pressure on the supporting ground but 23 years later there is still evidence of settlement still taking place.

When the old bridge was dismantled it is understood that the steel span was sold for use as a bridge in the Kauaeranga Valley.

It is also an interesting coincidence to note that this bridge came in to use less than two months after the opening of the Kopu - Hikuai highway. Both major National Roads Board projectsofconsiderable significance to Paeroa.