Christchurch's only surviving 19th century timber bridge has been put back to work today, with sheep some of the first to test it out, as a tribute to its early days as a route for driving stock to Riccarton Market Yards.
The re-opening of the badly quake-damaged Helmore's Lane Bridge comes after a five month repair job by the Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team (SCIRT), at a cost of about $1 million.
Built in 1866, the bridge spans the Avon in Little Hagley Park and was originally constructed by barrister and solicitor Joseph Helmore, who owned a 50 acre block on the north bank of the river and lived in Helmore's Lane.
Mr Helmore recognised the benefits of a short-cut across the river for the journey to his city practice, and for stock being driven to the new Riccarton sale yards which opened the same year the bridge was constructed.
Residents gathered around the bridge today, to celebrate its reopening to the public.
Fendalton-Waimairi ward councillor Jamie Gough said it was well loved by the community.
"This work has saved a piece of Christchurch's history, and returned a special asset to the community."
SCIRT executive general manager Ian Campbell said the restoration project was more complicated than originally thought.
"When we first opened up under the bridge, we found far more rotten beams and damage than expected. The challenge was to maintain the basic heritage structure while incorporating new, authentic materials where possible.
"We also incorporated recycled materials. About 30 bridge piles of Jarrah hardwood from two old dismantled bridges over the Waitaki River were used to make new hand rails, posts and cross beams," Mr Campbell said.
SCIRT has repaired or rebuilt more than 100 bridges around Christchurch that were damaged in the earthquakes.
Before the earthquakes Helmore's Lane Bridge carried vehicles, but during the repair process the Christchurch City Council found that the approach to the bridge was part of Hagley Park and that it was not a legal road.
Mr Campbell said it was then decided that once the repairs were completed, the bridge would only be open to pedestrians and cyclists.