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Photographer's Note

Brunner Coal Mine that commenced operation in 1864, sits in a valley dissected by the Grey River, 13 kilometres from Greymouth

Transporting the coal from Brunner to Greymouth proved problematic by road, as a lack of access meant the coal had to be shipped down the river on barges

In the 1870s Prime Minster Julius Vogels, Public Works Programme provided the solution. The programme aimed to improve rail lines, especially in areas that would benefit the mining industry, and Brunner fitted the bill.

Practically, a bridge over the river would allow the mines to be linked to the rail network, facilitating faster transportation of the coal, thereby rapidly expanding the region.

The Public Works Department designed its first ever suspension bridge, measure more than 90m, with a wooden box girder truss construction with splayed cables. The original contractor being EB Garvin.

Built in 1876, however, this bridge did not last long. Few weeks prior to opening, the anchor plates at one end failed, sending the structure crashing into the river. Workers tried to salvage what they could and the bridge was thus completed months later.

However, due to the lightweight construction, it meant that the heavy trained engines could not cross, only horses pulled the coal wagons.

A pedestrian walkway was added across the top of the box girder trusses in 1885, to separate people from freight. Many miners used the bridge to get to work from the surrounding areas

The Brunner bridge was closed on a number of occasions, in 1921 it closed to vehicles but pedestrians were allowed to cross at their own risk. The mine officially closed five months later.

In the 1920s the Brunnerton Borough Council took responsibility for it and replaced the suspension cables. Major work in the 1960s saw the Bailey bridge trusses overlaid on the existing deck and the timber towers were replaced by steel.

The bridge continued to be in regular use until 1978, when a road bridge was opened just upstream at Stillwater.

Over the years the Brunner bridge slowly fell into a state of disrepair, with the perishable wooden structure decaying. Responsibility for the bridge passed through successive local bodies before falling to the Grey District Council.

The bridge failed an engineering inspection and was closed, o the Grey District Council, the Historic Places Trust and the Department of Conservation joined together to form the Brunner site co-ordinating committee, to organise, fund and oversee the bridge restoration

The rebuild started with the construction of the two towers, followed by the adding of the cables. The treated radiata pine box girder trusses were reinstated in sections. The first two sections were reinstated from the Taylorville side of the river using a mobile crane. The remaining sections were then winched out from the Tyneside side of the river.

Difficulties positioning the truss sections of the bridge forced the opening of the bridge to be postponed for a month. The ceremony went ahead in March 2004

Brunner Mine was in Category One Status assigned by New Zealand Historic Places Trust, and the bridge was in Category Two. Meaning that both are areas of great historical importance to be preserved.

Todate, this suspension bridge is for walking visitors only.

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Additional Photos by Ralf Lai (kim_gwan) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 99 W: 0 N: 368] (1142)
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