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Celebrating the Auckland Harbour Bridge 50th Anniversary

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The NZ Transport Agency remains committed to celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Auckland Harbour Bridge later this year, but has decided not to proceed with a major event like a bridge walk.

The NZ Transport Agency remains committed to celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Auckland Harbour Bridge later this year, but has decided not to proceed with a major event like a bridge walk. 

“As much as we would like to share the celebration of a national icon with as many people as possible, we cannot justify closing the bridge to traffic for a huge number of walkers because of the impact on safety, traffic congestion and spending,  said Wayne McDonald, the NZ Transport Agency’s Regional Director for Auckland and Northland.  

The harbour bridge had been a critical part of Auckland’s transport system from the day it opened in 1959.  The NZTA’s priority was to ensure the bridge continued to do the job it was built for 24 hours a day, every day of the week.

“Closing the bridge to traffic, even at the weekend, would cause huge congestion on roads throughout the Auckland region that would take an unacceptable number of hours to clear,” Mr McDonald said.

The harbour bridge was the only direct north/south link through Auckland.  The Sydney Harbour Bridge was opened to walkers on its 75th anniversary, but Mr McDonald noted that there were many more alternative harbour crossings in Sydney.

The NZTA, the Auckland Regional Council and the Auckland and North Shore City Councils had undertaken detailed investigations over the past three months into the possibility of a bridge closure between 6am and midday on Queen’s Birthday Sunday, May 31. 

One survey had indicated as many as 320,000 could walk or cycle across the bridge.  Even if the event was restricted to 120,000 people, the event would still cost between $1.2 - $1.3m – far higher than the NZTA had originally budgeted for.

“Everyone is operating in difficult economic times and our spending outside core responsibilities like maintaining the State Highway network has to reflect that climate,”  Mr McDonald said.    

The NZTA said there were other issues that also made it impossible to close the bridge as part of the anniversary celebrations.  There was a lack of suitable land available at either end of the bridge to marshal crowds; the safety risk of managing a large number of people on the bridge itself; and the pressure on the city’s public transport systems to carry the numbers needing a return journey after crossing the bridge. 

“We acknowledge that our decision not to close the bridge will disappoint many,” Mr McDonald said.  “However, we are committed to marking the 50th anniversary with lower-key celebrations that reflect the times in which we now operate.” 

The NZ Transport Agency will announce details of those celebrations shortly.

For more information please contact:

Ewart Barnsley
Stakeholder and Communications Manager – Auckland
T   64 9 3682142  
M  64 27 2137616
Email   ewart.barnsley@nzta.govt.nz

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