** The bridge has won a 2014 Architizer A+ Award (jury choice) and a 2014 Civic Trust Award **
Designed by specialist UK bridge design consultancy Knight Architects following a competitive tender in 2011, the spectacular NZ$32m Lower Hatea Crossing was officially opened on 27 July 2013. The 265m tidal river estuary crossing is a key component in the highway network, designed to reduce congestion in the city centre and improve access to Whangarei Heads and the airport.
The bridge provides a permanent minimum headroom for river users and a 25m wide lifting section to allow vessels taller than 7.5m to transit the bridge. The opening mechanism is based on a traditional rolling bascule bridge type, the first of its kind in New Zealand, and was selected because it achieves the required clearance quicker due to the deck moving backwards as well as rotating. This quick clearance decreases the waiting times for travellers on the bridge, which was a key concern of the client.
The structural steel deck supports are shaped to provide a distinctive elevation which speaks both of its efficient rolling action – the counterweights at the top of the ‘J-beams’ balance the weight of the orthotropic deck and minimize the power needed to raise and lower the span – and also its cultural context - the curved ‘J’ shape is an interpretation of the fish hook motif that is widely used in Maori culture. The form is designed to be recognisable by day and night, to provide a positive gateway to the town basin area and a structure that speaks strongly of the local character and culture of Whangarei. The bridge has been officially named Te Matau a Pohe – translated as 'The fishhook of Pohe‘, after the Maori chief who welcomed the first English settlers to Whangarei.