This photo taken in September 1969 looks towards Palmerston with the Tararua Ranges in the background. The Opiki Toll Bridge and tollhouse can be seen in the middle. The remains of the 'Tane' mill chimney can be seen on the right.
In the late 1800s, the idea of creating new farmland alongside the Manawatu River lead to an attempt to drain the swamplands. Farming was delayed but the drainage coincidentally created perfect conditions for growing flax, which prompted the building of numerous flax mills. With the flax being on the opposite side of the bridge to Palmerston North, flax millers had a hard time transporting flax across the river to the railway. With the rapid growth of the flax industry, this soon became a major problem, with only one solution.
Thus the Opiki Bridge was born.
This website gives a brief history of the life of the Opiki Suspension Bridge, from the draining of the Makurerua Swamp, through the swamp's flax industry, the construction of the bridge, its conversion to a toll bridge, to the closing of the old toll bridge and the opening of the new bridge at Opiki.
A sketch map of the Opiki area shows roads in Opiki in 1970, with original names in brackets.
The Foxton-Palmerston highway can be seen in the top right. The dashed line shows the course of the old road crossing the river on the suspension bridge. The map shows the road crossing the new bridge.
The 'X's mark positions of flaxmills from the 1880s to 1930. The five lines crossing the river are flying fox ropes from the mills.
Next: "The Beginning"