A controversial piece of land that Tauranga turned its back on was reclaimed by the community with an extravagant ceremony celebrating the city's new-look waterfront.
Thousands of people turned out to the area on The Strand yesterday for the opening ceremony, including Olympic gold medallists Hamish Bond and Eric Murray and Hairy Maclary look-a-likes.
Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby described the event as "historic''.
"The opening of the waterfront has been on the council agenda for nearly 20 years or so,'' he said.
"What I like about the waterfront is it's what we aspired to do, in that it's simple. It has a simple walkway and simple open space where you can hold events like this.
"This is a great example of how we can best use this space,'' Mr Crosby said.
The Little Big Markets and food stalls were among the activities available, as were photo opportunities with the Olympic heroes, bike stunts and live music.
The new waterfront is a flat stretch of grass framed by a smooth waterside walkway.
Already a boat show is scheduled for the area and it was hoped future waka ama and kayaking events would also be held at the waterfront.
"The whole plan is to get people back to the waterfront. As a city, we turned our back on it,'' Mr Crosby said.
"The CBD is really struggling . . . so to have activities here to bring people in will also help rejuvenate the CBD.''
Downtown Tauranga manager Kirby Weis said he was pleased to see the turnout at the new waterfront, as it had been "a long time coming''.
The gripes some people had about the removal of the reclamation carpark, which used to occupy the land, didn't really come into it, Mr Weis said.
"There's still plenty of places to park. But it's about providing a space the community can enjoy,'' he said.
Stuart Marshall was among the many who brought their families along to take part in the day.
"It's good to see that finally we have something central going on,'' Mr Marshall said, as he balanced his young son, Jimmy, on his shoulders.
"It's got a good community feel. It's great to have. They needed to utilise the waterfront area in a better way.''
A Hairy Maclary sculpture, incorporating Dame Lynley Dodd's nine characters, is due to be installed on the waterfront by July 2013.
Anne-marie McIlwraith brought pooch Griffin along to register for a Hairy Maclary look-a-like contest.
"I read about the opening and thought I'd bring him down,'' Ms McIlwraith said.
Other's brought their own version of Bottomly Potts all covered in spots, Schnitzel von Krumm with a very low tum and Muffin McLay like a bundle of hay.