The design inspiration for the He Ara Kotahi bridge is a karaka tree, with its ‘roots’ in Dittmer Reserve, between the Esplanade and Ruha Street. People flying from Palmerston North to Christchurch will likely get the best view of the tree design. The Karaka design has strong links to the history of our iwi, Rangitāne. Generations of Karaka have lined Karaka Grove at Massey University, providing food and shelter for the people that once lived there. Karaka trees also once covered the southern bank of the Manawatū River on the flat land between Turitea Stream and the Fitzherbert Bridge. Early Māori setters cleared some of the forest to plant kumara. When the rest of the land was converted to farmland, the first European settler to farm the land protected the remaining trees. There are other significant cultural sites along the route so the Council and Rangitāne have worked closely with archaeologists to protect these sites.
The 190m long He Ara Kotahi cycle and pedestrian bridge connects to the Victoria Esplanade in Palmerston North City, and to Dairy Farm Road, which cuts through Food HQ to give access to Massey University.