Not all struggles to tame the land in New Zealand have been successful ones. The failed attempt to settle Mangapurua, (now part of the Whanganui National Park) is a battle that nature won – and the Bridge to Nowhere is a poignant symbol of human defeat.
Under the Discharged Soldiers Settlement Act 1915 and further legislation in 1917, over 10,000 veterans of the First World War were assisted onto land. Some 3,000 of these were settled on Crown land, much of it marginal and remote central North Island land. Over 5,000 veterans took up government loans to buy and develop properties, while others took up leases of Crown land under various forms of tenure.
Mangapurua (click here to view map) was one of the settlements opened up for soldiers returning from the war. The land was infertile, steep and prone to erosion because the bush had been cleared. A slow migration of soldier settlers out of the district began after the 1921 crash in agricultural prices, with the last settlers leaving in 1942. A bridge – known as ‘the bridge to nowhere’ – over the Mangapurua Gorge is one of the few traces of the former settlement. [Source: Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand]