Tākaka Hill tracks and roads
George Murray and party left Riwaka 25 April 1844 to climb over the Pikikiruna range (Tākaka Hill) looking for a route for a bridle road. They crossed the range about where Lindsay's bridge is today in the Tākaka Valley.1 Murray reported back that a bridle road was feasible further "southward" of where they had crossed the range. That is, where the road is today. Thirty-four years later there was a bridle road there.
The first Pakeha track (Pikikiruna track) was formed in 1857, before Upper Tākaka was surveyed. It was made for the goldminers to get to Collingwood, not far from where George Murray had crossed the range. The same year, the Government set the rules for the Collingwood gold fields. The track was too steep for horses; the mailman used a donkey.
For the Tākaka Hill traveller the track ended at Long Ford Crossing (Tākaka River), where the river was very wide and shallow. This crossing was used by both Charles Heaphy and George Murray. From the Crossing, there was a road, of sorts, to Tākaka - the only road to Tākaka for fifty years, until 1893.
On the Riwaka side of the Tākaka Hill, the Pikikiruna track followed the ridge from, what is now, the Mārahau Road, and only a short distance from today's road (SH60).
The bridle track
Click image to enlarge
Upper Tākaka settlers Daniel and Henry Bate agitated for a trap track (bridle track). The Takaka Road Board asked the Bate brothers to cut a line of road further south of the Pikikiruna track.2
They accepted the offer and cut a line of road from Upper Tākaka to Kairuru. The 2.1 metre bridle track was surveyed and formed by 1878. Mud in the winter was still a problem.
The coach road
The Bate brothers then wanted a coach gravelled road over the hill.3 In 1886, they went to see the minister of the Public Works Department in Wellington. He told them he had been over the line of road and was pleased with what he saw. The Bate brothers' line of road was used, but the gradient on the Tākaka side was reduced from 1 in 12 to 1 in 16 which lengthened the road, and only about one fifth of the bridle track was widened. The rest was new excavations.
The Tākaka Hill road was finished about 1900. Tenders were still being called about 1895. Bates' bridle track and the new road crossed in several places, so both bridle track and road were used for about twelve years, where it was convenient. The last section of construction was the Eureka bend area.
There is one stretch of the current road (SH 60) which has been used by all routes crossing the Tākaka Hill - used by Charles Heaphy, George Murray, the Pikikiruna Track, Bates' bridle track and the coach road. This is the narrow section of the ridge between the Kairuru Farm turnoff and the limeworks, a stretch of about fifty metres.
Mac Harwood 2009 (Mac published a history of roads and information about the Upper Tākaka area in 2011 - Upper Takaka Pioneers).
The Tākaka Hill Road remains the only vehicle connection between Golden Bay / Mohua and the rest of the Nelson/Tasman region, and because of its topography and geology it remains vulnerable to landslips. In February 2018 the road link was severed following the regional devastation caused by Cyclone Gita, which resulted in 16 slips between Riwaka Valley and the Summit of Tākaka Hill with two sections of road completely washed away.4
The road was partially opened by the end of the month with convoys leading traffic, and opened with traffic lights operating in several places where the road remained single lane, in April 2018. The repair work was still ongoing with traffic signals and speed restrictions expected to be in place to the end of 2020, indicating the ongoing vulnerability of the road connection to Golden Bay / Mohua.
Updated April 2020
Sources used in this story
Notes taken on a journey between Riwaka and Takaka (1844, May 18) Nelson Examiner, p.43
Takaka Road Board papers [held Golden Bay Museum]
Bate, H. Blazing the trail [unpublished]
- Hindmarsh, N. & Gee, S. (2018, February 21) Gita: Massive task ahead to re-open slip-damaged Takaka Hill highway. Nelson Mail on Stuff:
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Further sources - Tākaka Hill tracks and roads
- Mac Harwood: Upper Takaka historian and rock-hound (2009, October 24) Golden Bay Weekly.