Last weekend, I took the opportunity to sneak a look at the newly refurbished Strand Reclamation and I have to say I liked what I saw.
Although the work is still ongoing, and the area is fenced off, the old car park adjacent to the fountain has certainly been transformed into something that is long overdue in our city.
Where there had once been an ugly car park, is now a lovely green area of newly laid grass and trees.
By the time spring arrives and the area is open to the public, I can see a lot of city workers using the area to relax in during lunch breaks or for picnics on weekends.
There is still quite a bit of work left to do, but it's a start on transforming our city waterfront from a drab car park to a lovely park area that can be enjoyed by everyone.
We just need a state-of-the-art children's playground and stage one will be complete. I know I have said it before but I would love to see the entire Strand Reclamation turned into a park and the car parking done away with altogether ...
one day, maybe.
The other piece of good news that appeared in the Bay of Plenty Times during the week, was that the planned Hairy Maclary and friends sculptures for the Strand have received a boost from the Ministry of Economic Development of $150,000.
Tauranga's MP, Simon Bridges, visited the proposed site on the Strand with Associate Tourism Minister Chris Tremain in March and they were obviously impressed by the project.
The main objective of the Tourism Facilities Grant Programme is to enhance the understanding and enjoyment of New Zealand by overseas visitors, through increasing the quality and number of nationally significant tourism facilities.
Creative Tauranga was approved funding from the programme through an application process for a project that met the objectives and criteria of the fund. The chief executive of Creative Tauranga, Tracey Ruddick-Gudsell, is doing a great job in finding the large amount of money required - something like $800,000 in total.
You may think that's a lot of money, but it is an investment in our future and a drawcard for tourists. Let's face it, Tauranga is the birthplace of Hairy Maclary and his friends. Think of the number of cruise-ship visitors who will be arriving in our city next season alone and how popular an attraction like the Maclary sculptures will prove to be.
The project to bring Hairy, Snitzel von Crum and the rest of the characters from the books to the Strand has also received a great deal of help from a number of clubs and organisations. Three Tauranga Rotary clubs have contributed: Tauranga TePapa $10,000, Tauranga Sunrise $25,000 and Tauranga Rotary $25,000.
Tracey and her hard-working team at Creative Tauranga are doing a great job organising the funding required. The team is setting up a special website and Facebook page for the project that should be up and running within the next week or so.
The other piece of good news is that the sculptor has begun work.
It is hoped that the project can be completed by November, in time for the Duchess of Cambridge's and Prince Charles' visit to Tauranga.
Camilla is a huge fan of the Hairy Maclary books and has said she loves reading them to her grandchildren.
The Strand redevelopment and the Hairy Maclary sculpture trail are small steps in turning our waterfront into a real family friendly park; something we as locals can be proud of.
On a final note. My commiserations to the family of Tauranga City Council's chief executive, Ken Paterson. A sudden and sad loss.