Auckland Harbour Bridge turns 50!


One of NZ's greatest icons, the Auckland Harbour Bridge will celebrate its 50th birthday on May 30.

One of NZ’s greatest icons, the Auckland Harbour Bridge will celebrate its 50th birthday on May 30. 

Over the past 50 years, more than one billion vehicles have crossed the bridge. “That number just confirms that the bridge was, is, and will remain a critical transport link for Auckland,” said Wayne McDonald, the NZ Transport Agency’s Regional Director for Auckland and Northland.

The first cars using the bridge were tolled two shillings and six pence – around $4.70 in today’s money compared with the $2 motorists currently pay to use the Northern Gateway Toll Road. 

In 1959, 11,200 vehicles crossed the bridge each day.  The daily average count in 2009 now averages 154,000 and sometimes reaches 200,000.

The Auckland Harbour Bridge is 1.2 kilometres long.  It was built over four years by a team of 1000, many of them skilled workers who arrived from Britain to work on the biggest project of its time in New Zealand. 

The direct north/south link made a significant contribution to the development of Auckland, linking the city with a 1950s North Shore of farms and sea-side villages.

“The bridge has grown up alongside Auckland,” said Mr McDonald.  “There have been many changes so that it could keep pace with the rapid growth that it helped spark right across the region.”

The clip-ons were added in 1969; tolls were abolished in 1984; the moveable lane barrier was installed in 1990 to eliminate head-on crashes; work began last year to strengthen the clip-ons.

As part of celebrating 50 years of service, the NZTA has provided Auckland schools and libraries with books about the history of the bridge and its part in the cultural life of the Waitemata Harbour. 

The importance of the bridge to Auckland and the country was one reason that influenced the NZTA’s decision not to mark the anniversary with a public walk that would have closed a critical part of State Highway 1. 

Fifty years on, and the NZTA is now looking to the future and new ways to cross the Waitemata Harbour.  Work has started with local Government partners to protect a route under the harbour for road and rail tunnels.  “That won’t mean the end of the bridge,” Mr McDonald said.  “But it does mean that alternative ways to get across the harbour will change its role.  The bridge may be 50, but it still has a lot to give.”

Auckland Harbour Bridge fact sheet (PDF, 27 KB)

For more information please contact:

Ewart Barnsley
Auckland Media Manager
NZ Transport Agency
T    64 9 368 2000

Notes to editors:

Guardian of the Bridge by Diana Harris was first published in 1990, this new edition has been updated and re-released to Auckland schools years 1 – 6.

Auckland Harbour Bridge 50 years of a city icon by Renee Lang tells the story of the bridge’s construction accompanied by striking images from the archives of the New Zealand Herald.

Both books were published by Random House.