Bridging the gap at Macetown

A 4WD completes one of 10 river crossings with two of the logs used to construct a bridge over Soho Creek in Macetown. The bridge was completed on June 21 by Arrowtown resident John Mowat and his "little army".
A 4WD completes one of 10 river crossings with two of the logs used to construct a bridge over Soho Creek in Macetown. The bridge was completed on June 21 by Arrowtown resident John Mowat and his "little army".
It could be said the story of Arrowtown resident John Mowat and the three bridges he has built in Macetown began in 1987.

At the time, Mr Mowat had been unemployed for 12 months and decided to go on holiday.

With a friend and her daughter in tow, Mr Mowat "decided to go on a cruise in a house bus".

After arriving in Arrowtown, the trio decided to walk into Macetown, where they set up camp for the night.

The next morning, a Nomad Safaris 4WD came past and fate intervened, Mr Mowat ending his conversation with a job offer.

"I hadn't had a job for over a year. I began driving for Nomad and I thought I would do something for Macetown."

Years later, he decided to reinstate a pedestrian bridge that had been removed following the Cave Creek tragedy.

In April 1995, 14 members of a party of students from the Outdoor Recreation course at Tai Poutini Polytechnic in Greymouth were killed when a viewing platform above Cave Creek, in the Paparoa National Park on the West Coast, collapsed.

Mr Mowat asked the Department of Conservation when the Macetown bridge was going to be replaced and the department replied "it wasn't going to be".

Four months later, Mr Mowat tried again, asking if he could build the bridge for the department with the help of an engineer.

An old bridge was found, restored and taken in to Macetown as the Millennium Project for Arrowtown.

Not long after the bridge was completed, Mr Mowat found the remains of another bridge and approached Doc again. The department allowed Mr Mowat to reinstate a second bridge, which was sourced from the former Clyde dam project and work finished last winter. However, access to that bridge was blocked by Soho Creek.

"Quite often, it's too high to get across the river on foot and we needed a bridge to get across safely.

"Initially, they were a bit sceptical," Mr Mowat said.

Iconic Adventures, organiser of the Motatapu adventure race, needed to be able to cross Soho Creek for the annual event.

"I found out... if there was a high water event they had to build a temporary bridge at a cost of $2000 and then pay another $1000 to have it removed."

Mr Mowat again contacted Doc and was given permission to construct the bridge, but was told to organise and pay for the resource consents and pay for the construction of the bridge himself.