Our city set to sparkle again

By Roger Moroneyroger moroney@hbtoday co nz

2 comments
HOW IT WILL LOOK: An artist's impression of the proposed international standard Skatebowl arena.
HOW IT WILL LOOK: An artist's impression of the proposed international standard Skatebowl arena.

THE seafront is a recognised magnet, as anyone who has visited a town or city nestled beside a great ocean will confirm.

And it does not have to be a sparkling and warm summer's day for people to steer toward the coast - on a grim winter's afternoon when the big stormy easterlies bring the high seas rolling in you see them lined up.

Car after car along the seafront - their occupants watching aquatic nature at work.

At any time it is simply a colourful and good place to be.

Napier's Marine Parade, in the words of council community development manager Antoinette Campbell, is purely and simply "iconic" and is a collective attraction in its own right.

Accordingly, it needed a focus and a plan, and above all funding, to keep it on the path to maintaining its special status.

In terms of the latter, Napier City Council has unanimously decided to spend a further $1.3 million on the long-term Marine Parade development.

The funding was described as "an investment in the city's future" with the council also taking up the preferred option to consult with the public in the spending of the money on the second stage of the foreshore's revamping.

In terms of coming up with the $1.3 million there would be no issue for ratepayers in terms of being part of the sourcing of cash as the council was in a sound financial state and the money could effectively be borrowed internally.

Napier Mayor Bill Dalton said no money had come out of the rates takings in the development so far - it is non-rates money coming from reserves.

In terms of the redevelopment plans he has a simple philosophy.

"Do it once and do it right."

Council chief executive Wayne Jack also has a clear and present take on the approach - "substance and style".

The goal is the creation of a strip of seafront land which has a point of difference and a reason for people to go there and spend time there.

A place of recreational and "passive" activities.

An attractively laid out, sculpted and designed landscape.

It has seen many changes through the years.

Many folk of a certain age will remember the boating lake, the tennis courts and the trampolines.

The "can-am" race karts, the Kiwi House, the Municipal Baths and the paddling pool which was beside a small playground which in its latter days was best described as in disrepair.

There was also the Marineland - the site now part of the advancing plans for stage two of the strip's redevelopment.

For much of it however, there was a slightly worn and run-down look, and the Napier City Council began sparking it up in the mid-'90s.

"The Marine Parade is the jewel in the city's crown," Mr Dalton said and it was a jewel which had the potential to become a strong national magnet.

"We want families to sit around in June and July talk about were they want to go for their summer holidays and we want them to say 'Napier'."

While there is a strong focus of it being aimed at the young it is also being devised as a sparkling place for the young at heart.

"A chosen destination ... for children of all ages," Mr Dalton said.

The Marine Parade was effectively a reserve, he said, and reserves in this age did not need things like karts racing about or structures which could take away the seascape.

The first stage of the redevelopment was wrapped up in December 2013 with extensions to the playground, the new kids' bike and scooter park, the picnic areas and the Manga Pacific water feature which links to the National Aquarium.

Now the second stage is on the march, with Mr Dalton expecting tenders for the work to go out in the next few days. "We want to get the spades in the ground as soon as possible - I do not like protracted building projects."

He is hopeful it will be well on track for the next summer's arrival.

Stage two will centre on the revamping of the vacant Marineland site into a world-class Skate Park as the present SK8 Zone was now too small to cater for the numbers of young people who converged on it.

"This will be a skating facility of international standards but it will also incorporate basketball, futsal (five-a-side football) and roller derbies."

As well, the retention and upgrading of the grandstand will mean the centre will also lend itself to the staging of small concerts.

There will also be sculptures and landscaped pathways and plantings amidst the second stage which is dubbed "reef garden and ampitheatre".

The pathways will link to lookout points aligned with Mahia and Cape Kidnappers which will feature carvings.

The design is inspired by Maori mythology and the unique seascape environment.

There will also be a series of "bubble-up" interactive water features which will lead to a feature pool installed with LED-lit computerised water jets.

To accommodate the new layout the present car-parking area between the SK8 Zone and the former Marineland site will be well eaten into, but car owners and commuters can be assured they had not been left out of the picture.

"We acknowledge we have to retain some parks there but we are also working on creating alternative parks close to the CBD," Mr Dalton said.

The redevelopment programme is effectively focused around the stretch of seafront north of the National Aquarium, and Mr Dalton said it was important to keep the open grass faces for two reasons - people enjoyed the uninterrupted vista of the sea to Cape Kidnappers and the area were vital for staging "occasional events" like the ice skating rink and national gatherings.

Napier has already been chosen as the venue for the Ford Model T club's national gathering in 2017 and they will have all the room they need for the displays - on a grassed stretch of the parade.

"We can host these sorts of things and they bring a lot of people in," Mr Dalton said.

Mr Jack said one strong theme to the redevelopment programme was that it provided attractions and spaces for visitors, but equally importantly locals.

It was all part of the "wider long term strategy" of creating a great community and liveable city for tourists and locals.

As part of that approach the expansive development of Anderson Park as a destination playground meant it would cater for the community as it was in the centre of the residential zones.

But it would however still pull in visitors.

"We take our position as the tourism hub very seriously," Mr Dalton said, adding that aside from the Napier Port and Hawke's Bay Airport the city had 72 percent of the region's accommodation beds.

"And so the more people we attract to Napier the better it is for the whole of Hawke's Bay."

Hawke's Bay Tourism general manager Annie Dundas said the redevelopment was needed.

"It's time because that is a key visitor area," she said, agreeing with Mr Dalton that it was something of a jewel in the crown, as were sea frontages in several other regions.

She likes what she had seen developed so far and likes the look of the plans for the second stage, having seen how other areas had presented their seafronts.

While it was good to have physical components to it Ms Dundas said it was equally important to retain the open space feel - as a place to relax, walk and simply chill out.

The landscape theme worked as the Marine Parade was a focal stretch for hotels, motels, restaurants and cafes.

"I'm definitely excited about it - it's all good," she said.

So, when the Skate Park is up and running and the walkways, sculptures and water features are shining and bubbling, will that then be that for the Marine Parade?

Will that be job done?

No, it will not, for there is essentially a stage three on the long-term books although it was still in the very early stages and not much was being officially said about it at this time.

While Mr Dalton and Mr Jack did not want to go into any great detail at this stage they did confirm it would focus around the National Aquarium of New Zealand - which was "national" in name only as it received no Government funding.

No details, but it would be "major" Mr Dalton conceded.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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