Monday, November 28, 2016

Under the Bridge

There are always new places to visit, but sometimes it’s interesting to re-visit places we’ve been, especially if it’s been a long time. This past Thursday, I visited Stokes Point/Te Onewa Pa—underneath the Auckland Harbour Bridge, where it lands on the North Shore.

I’d last visited the spot in March 2007, where I took some photos that I shared at the time, including one similar to the photo above. I’m including photos from that day with this post because I didn’t take new ones, and what they show hasn’t changed much.

By 2009, when I again used a photo from that 2007 post, the area was closed to the public while urgent repair and strengthening work was being done on the underside of the bridge. I just never went back to check.

But I never forgot about the spot, either, and wanted to take a photo of the memorial to the workers who died building the bridge (photo at right). In 2009, I was reading the Wikipedia page on the bridge, and it mentioned that there was a memorial to the workers, but implied that it was uncertain that any had died (the current entry does mention the deaths). I wanted to go back and take a photo of the memorial, but couldn’t at the time, and then forgot about it.

Thursday was a beautiful day, so off I went. I parked in the shade of some trees and made my way to the stairs leading up (photo at left). It was daunting, because I could see how steep the steps were. Still, I started climbing, and continued left along the path—forgetting for a moment to take the dirt path to the right. I had to backtrack.

The path to Stokes Point is in the photos from 2007, below. The photo at left is looking back toward the steps, which is at just beyond the point in the distance where the path curves to the right. The photo at right, below, is from the same point, but looking toward Stokes Point and the spot where the memorial is (not visible in this photo).

What is now often known as Stokes Point was originally Te Onewa Pa, a Māori fortification used to protect kumara planted nearby and fishing grounds below the bluffs. Eventually the Crown purchased the land in the Mahurangi Purchase, which covered most of the North Shore. The area was subdivided, sold and re-sold, and eventually became a reserve (parkland), which it still is today.

Back in 2012, criticism was levelled at NZTA, which manages the bridge, for the damage done to the reserve over the many decades since the bridge was built in 1959, but especially since 2000. Nothing has been done to make the area better, and it feels forgotten and completely neglected.

The photo below is from 2007, but it’s no better now than it was then:

I personally don’t think the area could ever be made “beautiful”, but it could be so much better than it is—more welcoming, safer, and definitely more accessible. I don’t like heights, something that’s become worse as I’ve grown older. I felt extremely uncomfortable the entire time I was there, first because of the long, steep steps leading up from the carpark, then because of inadequate fencing to protect people from falling off the point and into the harbour. The noise of eight lanes of traffic above me, however, didn’t bother me, and while it isn’t exactly peaceful under the bridge, it’s quieter than one might think.

When I left, and after I successfully climbed down the steep stairs, I walked over to nearby Northcote Wharf. This is the ferry landing jetty that juts out from the wharf:

I went over there mostly so I could sit down in the shade and post the montage at the bottom of this post to Instagram (this version is slightly different). There was a man fishing off the jetty while I was there, and I included that photo in the montage. The photo of the bridge was taken from that area, the one of the skyline was taken a minute or two after the one up above.

And that was my visit to Stokes Point/Te Onewa Pa and Northcote Wharf. I plan on visiting other spots in the area, but mostly ones that aren’t so high up. Those, too, will be documented.

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