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1985 Scenic Bridges

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New Zealand is world-renowned for its spectacular scenery. Soaring mountain peaks, deep majestic fiords, vast peaceful tracts of native bush, untouched by man - all combine to give New Zealand its inimitable beauty and character. The road and rail bridges which blend into this landscape are the subject of this issue.

Issue information

Over the years man has adapted natural bridge forms, crossed higher and wider gaps and used a large variety of materials.  From the wood and stone used by early man, bridge designs have progressed through the use of iron and steel to the reinforced and pre-stressed concrete of today.  Aluminium too is now taking its place in modern bridge design.

The construction of roads and bridges in New Zealand began in the 1840s, soon after the first settlers arrived. The first section of railway line opened in 1863, and by 1880 most of the main lines of communication were complete. Many bridges were built in a huge programme of public works between 1870 and 1880 and there was  another massive building programme undertaken in the 1960s when many earlier bridges were had to be strengthened or replaced.

The 1985 Scenic Stamp Issue featured four New Zealand bridges, two from the South Island - the road bridge across Shotover River and at the bridge across the Clutha River at Alexandra. The other two stamps feature bridges from the North Island - the South Rangitikei rail bridge and Twin Bridges located at the confluence of the Mangakahia and Awarua rivers in Whangarei County in Northland. 

Stamp Bulletin

This stamp issue first appeared in New Zealand Post Stamp Bulletin No. 33 in April 1985.

Acknowledgments: Bulletin scanned and provided by John Biddlecombe of the New Zealand Society of Great Britain. Their web site offers further information useful to those interested in the stamps and postal history of New Zealand. Link:

Product Listing for 1985 Scenic Bridges

Image Title Description Price
  Single Stamp

Single 35c 'Shotover bridge' gummed stamp.

The road bridge across the Shotover River in Central Otago was described at its opening in 1975 as "mathematical precision combined with beautiful form". Both these elements, engineering skill and aesthetics, played their part in the design of the bridge which is on a route serving the important tourist area of Queenstown and the Southern Lakes.

The two-lane carriageway is 320 metres long and is made up of 169 pre-cast, pre-tensioned concrete box girder sections, that were made in Dunedin and then transported to the bridge site by rail and road. Each section was lifted into place by a 50 tonne crane and had to meet its mate. Work was made doubly dificult by the extreme Central Otago weather when freezing temperatures in winter and searing heat in summer combined to affect the materials in the bridge.

  Single Stamp

Single 40c 'Alexandra Bridge' gummed stamp.

Steel was the chosen material for the bridge built over the Clutha River at Alexandra in 1958 to replace a bridge built in 1882. Bridging the river at Alexandra was never an easy proposition. The Clutha is the longest river in the South Island and is reputed to carry the greatest volume of water.

Spanning some 158 metres the new tied-steel arch bridge incorporated special design features. It is anchored to one abutment by means of a hinge and there are bearings, or rollers on the other abutment and all the piers, that allow the bridge to freely expand and contract. The reinforced concrete deckslab is also designed with expansion joints so the deck can 'breathe' with temperature changes.

  Single Stamp

Single 45c 'South Rangitikei Rail Bridge' gummed stamp.

The South Rangitikei rail bridge forms part of the main trunk railway line north of Mangaweka in the central North Island. It is rugged landscape, scarred with deep gorges that presented many challenges for bridge builders. Flash floods that sometimes sweep down without warning from the high country had to be taken into account in the bride design as did earthquakes which are a constant threat in the area. The South Rangitikei bridge is able to move - in the event of an earthquake the legs of the high slender piers are designed to alternately lift off their foundation base..

Construction began in April 1973. The piers were constucted first and the first span completed. Then in May 1975 the temporary works supporting the partially built second span collapsed, sending several hundred tonnes of material into the river below. Work restarted in September 1975 and quick progress had the bridge completed by August 1981. The spectacular and elegant concrete structure subsequently won an environmental design award.

  Single Stamp

Single 70c 'Twin Bridges' gummed stamp.

An unusual bridge located at the confluence of the Mangakahia and Awarua rivers in Whangarei county, Northland, is the subject of the fourth stamp. Twin Bridges takes its name from two bridges built there in the 1920s. These were replaced in 1970 by a single reinforced concrete structure but the name remains.

The bridges special feature is a 19m landing which branches off the main bridge, giving access to farm land which would otherwise be isolated by the convolutions of the two rivers. The sealed road leading to Twin Bridges winds through rolling, fertile, volcanic farm land, steep hill country and superb river settings. At the bridge itself, the water is clear and bubbles through rounded river boulders. Native trees on the river bank make it a pleasant and popular picnic spot.

  First Day Cover First day cover with stamps affixed. Cancelled on the first day of issue. $1.98
  Presentation Pack Presentation pack containing a selection of stamp products from the issue and further information about the stamps. $3.90

Technical information

Date of issue: Stamps, 12 June 1985; Presentation pack, 20 November 1985
Number of stamps: Four gummed stamps
Denominations: 35c, 40c, 45c and 70c
Stamps and first day cover designed by: Robert Freeman, Auckland
Printer and process: Helio Courvoisier, Switzerland by photogravure 
Stamp size and format: 35c and 40c, 33.4mm x 28mm (horizontal); 45c and 70c, 28mm x 33.4mm (vertical) 
Paper type: Unwatermarked
Number of stamps per sheet: 100 
Perforation gauge: 11.5
Special blocks: Plate/Impositional or value blocks could be obtained by purchasing at least 6 stamps of each denomination
Period of sale: These stamp remained on sale until 10 June 1986. First day covers remained on sale until 21 June 1985.
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