Living Heritage - Tikanga Tuku Iho

Opiki Toll Bridge

A History


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Toll Bridge

During the mid 1920s, increasing numbers of people were continually requesting permission to use Hugh Akers' private roads and the bridge. This became increasingly annoying to him. Since there was no more flax traffic, he removed the railings from the bridge (to make crossings smoother) and made the route across the bridge avaliable to all. But to make up for the costs of supervision, public risk insurance, repairs and general maintenance for the bridge and roads, he decided that a toll charge would be necessary.

Opiki toll bridge
A view from the Opiki side of the river, showing the toll-keeper's house on the left, the
Tane mill chimney on the right, and the bridge in the background.

So Hugh Akers built a small house on the Opiki side of the bridge for the toll keeper to live in. The toll keeper was to supervise the traffic and stock crossing the bridge, ensure that there was control over the speed and the weight of vehicles and farm stock using the bridge, supervise maintenance of the bridge, and collect the tolls. So it was that in February 1926, the Tane Swing Bridge became known as the Opiki Toll Bridge. A toll gate was installed, and toll charges commenced at 2/6 (2 shillings and sixpence) per car.

As time passed, traffic crossing the bridge increased, and there was a growing need for a new two-way highway bridge. As the traffic increased, the toll charges were lowered a number of times. Since Hugh did not want to "rob" the community, he only needed the tolls to pay for the costs of maintaining the bridge. In 1966, with the introduction of decimal currency, the tolls were reviewed. They were lowered a final time, so that now it cost only $1 for 20 car crossings one fifth of the original cost.

During a visit in 1938 by Hon Robert (Bob) Semple, the government Minister of Works, an argument started about paying the toll. But the keeper stood his ground until the fee was paid. The very annoyed Minister departed with this parting shot: "This antique structure from a comic opera must go! We will build a new one immediately we will not have toll bridges in this country!!" A few weeks later, surveyors arrived and rammed in survey pegs, ... but nothing else happened. It was 30 years before the new bridge was built.

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Last update: Monday, September 15, 2003 at 3:13:11 PM.