Sunday, 10 April 2016

How the Kaiparoro bridge was built

I wanted to find out more about each bridge: when they were built, and when, and by whom, and more about the soldiers whose names are remembered on them.

So back to the Kaiparoro bridge.

This bridge replaced a ford across the Makakahi river. For a long time, locals had been wanting a bridge as vehicles were forever getting stuck and having to be pulled out. It was the last ford on the main road north that wasn’t bridged, but there was a dispute about who would pay for it and so nothing happened for years, except for more complaints, and more cars getting stuck.

Here are a couple of complaints from Papers Past about the situation.

Wairarapa Daily Times, 24 July 1917 – To the Editor from a “Kaiparoro correspondent”: “I am as sure that we will get the bridge in the end as I am that we will be victors in the great war… I have been gathering up munitions and am ready to strike another blow to free us from the trammels of the mountain stream.” 

On 14 February 1918, the Wairarapa Daily Times reported that the Automobile Association was being appealed to: “The bridge would not only be of material benefit to the settlers, but would also be a boon to motorists travelling through… a bridge was a necessity both for the settlers and the travelling public as the ford was a particularly bad one.”

Here's another report, this time from the Wairarapa Age, from 13 March 1918: 

Article image

The delay might have continued if not for Alfred Falkner (1854-1939), the Mauriceville County Engineer, and W. A Miller, also a Mauriceville County Council member. The two of then came up with a plan and a finance scheme to build the bridge, using local labour (including returned soldiers). 

Alfred Falkner had lost a son and a nephew in the war. He designed a concrete bridge over a wooden framework. The northern side of it bears the names of six local men who died overseas in the war, among whom are Alfred’s son Victor and nephew Donald Pallant.

It is also decorated with a plaster copy of the memorial plaques that were presented to the next of kin of those who had died, known as the Dead Man’s Penny. On 31 May 1922, the Otago Daily Times described this unusual feature:


I had already discovered that there are few memorial bridges, but it turns out that there are also few memorials specifically dedicated to the Anzacs (the inscription on the bridge includes the word Anzac) which makes it even more special.

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