Where is vision for waterfront?

By Michele McPherson

Tauranga businessman Mark Scapens is a patient man.
He's already waited four years to start developing the new Coronation Pier off The Strand waterfront - so at least another year's wait is neither here nor there for him. Or is it?
After all that time, Mr Scapens is still determined to build a pier on a large pontoon that houses tourism and hospitality activities.
Granted, he has been held up by objections, appeals and an Environment Court hearing, resulting from the resource consent application. That's all done now but his wait continues - he has yet to tie down the final details of a partnership agreement with the Tauranga City Council.
Over the period, the economy has turned grisly, the council is strapped for cash, and the downtown Tauranga waterfront plan keeps changing.
The pier project, being undertaken by Mr Scapens' Tauranga Water Front Ltd, was estimated to cost $5.5 million with the council contributing $1.5 million for installing services (power, water and gas), completing some onshore work, and demolishing the old Coronation Pier and adjacent Edgewater Restaurant - which happened three years ago.
"The partnership is kinda done, but we still have to talk about how the pier will be managed to get the best result," said Mr Scapens.
He doesn't expect the detail to be clear until the council's 2011/12 annual plan is locked in next June. When that happens, the soonest he can start on the pier is early 2012 and it will take a year to build.
He has to organise tenants and make sure the project is financially viable. "I've done a final design and I'll review that - but I still think it's appropriate even in three years' time."
Mr Scapens initially planned to have the pier completed by the end of last year.


He will be converting an old Navy maintenance barge/pontoon, from Devonport, which has been berthed for three years at the wharf underneath the harbour bridge free of charge. "That's part of the council contribution," he said.
The pontoon, made of pre-stressed concrete, will be transformed into a modern two-level structure with up to 10 tenancies.
The lower floor of the pontoon hull, comprising 300sq m, could be turned into a lounge bar or marine aquarium; the ground level with 260sq m of indoor space and 200sq m outdoor could be used for a cafe/deli, fish market, information centre and booking offices; and the upper floor of 260sq m could be a restaurant, function centre or offices.
The pier would also have a mini marina with between 16-19 berths handling boats from 14m to more than 30m in length.
It could be a pick up and drop off point for ferries and tourist operators.
"I've come so far and it would be a real shame if anything is changed," Mr Scapens said.
Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby said the project had been delayed so long because of the resource consent process, and council and Mr Scapens would have to re-assess the project in terms of timeframe and contributions.
"It's accepted we need to provide services and public access to the pier, and there may need to be more negotiation," he said.
During the pier delay, the waterfront plan on The Strand reclamation has been revised - again.
The plan prepared by landscape architects Wraight and Associates and costing $22 million has been trimmed to about $15 million, and a series of public information days have been held.
Mr Crosby said "a lot of the clutter was taken out to create more open spaces and make it more simple. It will be a staged development over four to five years."
Construction of the first stage is due to begin in mid-2012, following the resource consent process.
The landscaped waterfront, creating a parkland setting, will have space for walking, cycling, picnicking, and holding events including markets at the northern and southern ends.
The middle part will be a cluster of playing areas for families, including the existing Koru children's water feature.
A boardwalk on the water's edge will initially run from the Harbourside restaurant to the start of Dive Crescent, with a boat ramp installed next to Fisherman's Wharf.
The Wharewaka Pier, built on piles over the water just north of Mr Scapens' development, will house the Te Awanui waka, and steps will be constructed from the boardwalk nearby to provide access to the water.
Existing pedestrian crossings over the railway line at Spring St and Wharf St will be widened, the Harington St crossing will be closed, and a wider one directly across the road from Masonic Park will be provided.
Pohutakawa and puriri trees will provide shade and local character. The trees will be planted in short rows perpendicular to the shore line to extend view corridors from the city streets towards the harbour.
Mr Scapens worries that the latest waterfront plan may be too passive and there is no connection with the rest of the city to draw people downtown.
"What is the strategic vision for the city? The water, whether it's the harbour or the sea, is our greatest asset but we don't do anything with it. The waterfront plan doesn't connect with anything," he said.
"We don't have connecting cycle/walkways around the harbour; why doesn't a ferry operate from Omokoroa to the polytechnic at Windermere; what about the island links with Matakana, Motiti and Mayor?
"How do we interact with the harbour and shouldn't we have fishing, kayaking and swimming on the waterfront; shouldn't we have more inshore fishing boats calling at Fisherman's Wharf and turning it into a seafood precinct?
"I guess the chance of getting another marina is limited."
Mr Scapens said one of the key elements was access to the (downtown) waterfront.
"You can't ferry there, you can't walk there and you can sort of cycle out of Otumoetai without being on the road.
"I live at Maungatapu and I would take my life into my own hands if I tried to cycle out of there. Why can't we cycle from there around the harbour?"
Mr Scapens said under the current plan, most people would have to drive to the waterfront.
Will it draw them there if there's not enough events or activities, and they have to continue paying parking costs?
He's hoping the cars will be cleared from The Strand reclamation by the time he's completed his pier - so the pedestrians can easily find the entrance and don't have to compete with vehicles.
"I don't want it to be something sticking out on the far side of the carpark or else it will struggle."
Mr Scapens said the philosophy was to have no buildings on the waterfront.
"In my view, that's one of the things that's wrong with it.
"We need some land-based activities and hospitality - attractions such as bungee jumping and markets, and why can't we pick up some of the bars and restaurants on The Strand and move them over the rail line.
"The Strand doesn't even get the evening sun. If we just have vendors in little carts and it's rainy or windy, will people go over the waterfront to get an ice cream?"
Mr Scapens said that in spite of the past changes to the waterfront plan, "I don't think there's anything wrong with rethinking some of the ideas".
After waiting so long, why does he still persist with the Coronation Pier?
"I know there's easier ways of making money. But I was born here, I love the harbour and I feel I can make a contribution in a different way," he said.
"But I don't want to be caught with another Kestrel.
"The lesson I learned is that you have to make sure you have a strong commitment over tenure - council staff change regularly and each new one can interpret an agreement differently.
"You know, if you wanted to, you could put the whole waterfront development to the private sector and they could do it."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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