The Historic Kopu Bridge was built in 1928 and has Heritage NZ’s highest possible ranking for a historic place, Category 1. The bridge is unique as it is the longest single lane bridge in NZ and also the last remaining operational swing bridge in NZ.
The centre span of the bridge where the Pilot house is located, swings open to allow boats through. In its heyday, when the river was a highway for paddle steamers, goods and sand barges, many boats a day passed through the swing span. Boat captains signalled their need for the bridge to open to the Bridge Pilot by blowing their horn.
Being a Bridge Pilot was a full time job, with the pilot and family living nearby, constantly listening and scanning the river for boats. However in recent years, river traffic has significantly reduced with the bridge only being opened 0-3 times in any one year.
The bridge was closed in 2011 when the new two lane Kopu Bridge opened. Before this, the old single lane bridge carried over 9000 vehicles per day, including heavy trucks. The 453 metre one way bridge, was controlled in later years by traffic lights at both ends, so only one direction could go at a time.
In earlier days when there were less vehicles, passing bays on the bridge helped drivers to negotiate the crossing.
The local community has formed the Historic Kopu Bridge Society and a Trust which is currently seeking ownership from NZTA. The Trust intends to restore and open the bridge again as a historic pedestrian and cycleway.
For more information view www.facebook.com/savekopubridge
Although currently closed, the bridge may be viewed from Hauraki Railtrail, Kopu, or from the new Kopu Bridge.