A new visitor centre and cafe could be just the ticket to enticing tired travellers to stretch their legs in Whangarei's flagship botanical garden.

But some residents are worried the shabby state of the Quarry Gardens' gateway in Russell Rd will see potential visitors fly past on State Highway 1.

Liz Wright has lived in Russell Rd since 1983 and said the area has become progressively more dishevelled, with untamed berms and dumped garbage a common sight.

"For people that are travelling through Whangarei, once the cafe is open in the Quarry Gardens it will be a drawcard. But when you turn off the bypass it just looks so neglected," she said.

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"We get people dumping rubbish and it's horrible really. The general tone of the area encourages that."

Local residents were looking at initiating a regular working bee but wanted the council to mow some areas.

Quarry Gardens manager David McDermott said the visitor centre and cafe was set to be completed in September.

A recent public meeting with Whangarei District Council and the NZ Transport Agency dealt with future plans for the area, including improvements to State Highway 1.

"Speed is an issue and signage is minimal," Mr McDermott said.

He described Russell Rd as an "eyesore" and said the meeting had made it clear the council would not take the lead on the clean up. Quarry Gardens volunteers already had an entire garden to care for, he said.

Councillor Tricia Cutforth initiated the meeting and said the next step was for residents to form a neighbourhood improvement group to liaise with council.