Mohaka Viaduct

Engineering Work (eg road, bridge, sawmill, dam)


The Mohaka Viaduct is the highest railway viaduct in Australasia, standing 95 metres (m) above Hawke's Bay's Mohaka River.

This spectacular viaduct was designed by Public Works Department engineers, John Lelliot Cull and William Langston Newnham. Construction began in 1930 but, with the foundations completed and structural steel on the rail line, construction was temporarily abandoned in 1931 because of economic difficulties brought on by the Great Depression. When work eventually resumed in 1936, with D. O. Haskell as project engineer, the 276.8m long plate girder and trestle pier viaduct was completed in remarkable time, and was opened in July 1937.

Aspects of the construction and opening of the Mohaka Viaduct featured in a short contemporary promotional film, New Zealand Marches On (2:04 minutes into the film).

At the time of its construction the viaduct was the fourth highest in the world and its completion was the final link in the Napier-Wairoa rail line, whose construction had commenced at Napier in 1912.

The Mohaka Viaduct is a fine example of the skilled engineering construction work involved in the development of the New Zealand Railway system through difficult country.

Owner: ONTRACK (New Zealand Railways Corporation)
Design and construction: Public Works Department

Heritage Recognition
This place has been recognised by Heritage New Zealand as a Category 1 historic place (List no.4418):
Mohaka Vaiduct: 
New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero information (

IPENZ “Engineering to 1990” project
This item of New Zealand’s engineering heritage was recognised as part of the IPENZ “Engineering to 1990” project which the Institution organised to help celebrate the country’s sesquicentenary in 1990. A plaque was unveiled to mark the significance of this railway viaduct as part of the development of the nation.

G. Thornton, Bridging the Gap: Early bridges in New Zealand, 1830-1939, Auckland, 2001, pp.60-61


No Attachments


Ruapunga, 37 kilometres south of Wairoa on State Highway 2

East Coast, Hawkes Bay

Access Info
The viaduct can be seen from State Highway 2, between Napier and Wairoa

Nature of Engineering
Rail Transportation, Building and Construction


Mohaka railway viaduct, circa late 1930s. Reference ID: PAColl-5936-01. Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

(Click image to enlarge )

Lat: -39.068705 Long: 177.125702