Skip to content

Althea Barker, Volunteer, Thames Museum Te Whare Taonga o te Kauaeranga

This kete | set of road construction images highlights the terrain and challenges faced when State Highway 25A between Kōpū and Hikuai in the Coromandel was originally constructed in the 1950s and 1960s. Althea Barker from Thames Museum Te Whare Taonga o te Kauaeranga has provided a brief history of this access road across the Coromandel Ranges.

Tangata whenua used a number of tracks to cross the ranges between Kōpū and Hikuai, and these routes were later used by gold prospectors, gum diggers and bush fellers who travelled by foot or horseback.

By the 1940s, residents on the Eastern seaboard were actively campaigning for a connecting road, requesting better access to facilities such as Thames hospital and schools. Debate raged over the best route, with the Kauaeranga Highway favoured by some, but that route never eventuated.

In 1958 work started on a Hikuai land development road that would later become part of the Kōpū -Hikuai Road. On Thursday 23 March 1967 the Kōpū -Hikuai Road was officially opened. Half of the 17 ¾ mile long road was sealed at that time and the cost of construction was given as £920,000.

The photographs in the T F Sutton collection highlight the terrain and the challenges of the highway construction. These are complimented by a wealth of documents from the Thames-East Coast Road Committee in the Cleveland Family collection, which emphasised the importance of the road to the community.

Late January 2023, the State Highway between Kōpū and Hikuai suffered significant damage with the road collapsing at Taparahi after a major storm event. The road is due to be reopened late December 2023 with a bridge spanning the site of the slip.

Read more about the history of SH5A:

Kōpū-Hikuai road construction, from the TF Sutton Collection

Other photographs, Thames-East Coast Road committee documents