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A 50-metre deep gash in the landscape, its bush-covered slopes descending to a clear stream, Matahorua Gorge is a beautiful place. But rare was the motorist who could appreciate it. With its narrow road, blind corners, heavy traffic of logging trucks and farming lorries, and frequent winter closures due to slips, it made for slow and dangerous driving. Today, though, anyone who takes SH2 from Napier to Wairoa will shave about 12 minutes off the old journey time, thanks to a new, 137-metre bridge that spans the gorge. Used by 4,000 drivers every day, the bridge, along with a 3.1km stretch of realigned road, was part of a $31.7m NZ Transport Agency project that was born out of the government’s economic development plan for the area. A steel and concrete ‘frame’ bridge, it has been engineered to withstand hurricanes and a one-in-2500 year earthquake. DEREK ROBERTSON DOWNER / IN BLACK & WHITE / 43


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