The flood-damaged Te Reinga bridge near Wairoa was removed this week, with contractors saying it was unlike anything else they had ever worked on.
The 300-tonne bridge was damaged during heavy rain in March last year, and closed to heavy traffic.
Then its middle pier was washed away during Cyclone Gabrielle, leaving Ruakituri residents with a two-hour trip to Wairoa instead of the usual 30 minutes.
QRS construction manager Mike Wilson said specialists overseeing the work believe it could be the heaviest pull ever done in New Zealand.
It was intentionally collapsed into the river last Monday and then winched up out of the water, so a bailey bridge could be installed in its place.
Dozens of professionals were involved, including specialist dive teams, demolition experts, towing and crane operators, welders, and piling and bridging contractors - and it was the most complex project many of the crew have ever been involved in, Wilson said.
Around 60 people, eight excavators, seven tow trucks and four bulldozers were on site every day this week.
"The pulling was made complex by the sheer weight of the structure as well as continuously changing load paths, difficult ground conditions, and damaged bridge components."
Remarkably, he said, the bridge stayed in place on one pier with each end nestled into the bank.
"It is a testament to the designers and contractors from the 1970s that the bridge required so much force from cyclones and eventually a hydraulic excavator to get it down."
Watching it collapse was "an incredible moment", Wilson said. By Thursday afternoon, operators in seven tow trucks had successfully winched the bridge up out of the water.
It would now be cut into pieces, removed and recycled.