A park linking two of Whangarei's most popular public facilities will be built this summer, allowing easy access between Okara Shopping Centre and the Hatea Loop walkway.
A Port Rd building which formerly housed H&H Marine Engineering is being demolished to make way for the city's new 900sq m park. Whangarei District Council bought the site in 2013 in preparation for the $425,000 project, which would link the city's shared path/cycleway network to the popular Okara complex, which is privately owned and managed.
WDC landscape architect Tracey Moore designed the space and said it would encourage people visiting one of the "uglier" parts of town into exploring an attractive recreation area.
"Unfortunately, for a lot of people travelling north, [Okara] seems to be all they see of Whangarei. Once we break through [the Port Rd buildings] people should be drawn through towards The Loop a little bit more," she said.
The area's main feature would be a sandpit with a deck at the end, which Ms Moore said would become a "destination playground", taking pressure off the Town Basin.
Ms Moore said the park's design would reflect the industrial and marine areas which bracketed it, with large-scale artwork and salvaged materials used where possible. A 7m high steel archway retained from the original building would be a key feature, with the 3m wide pathway passing underneath. Lighting and CCTV would also be installed. Northland Regional Council is planning an inner-city bus circuit, which would likely stop nearby.
The plans for the so-called "pocket park" were presented to the council's 20/20 Inner City Revitalisation Committee yesterday, with the build expected to start early next year. Councillor John Williamson said the project would also help connect Okara Shopping Centre with the CBD.
This lack of connection was criticised by the Environment Court last year, while the court considered whether more land at Okara could be rezoned for bulk retail.
Across the Hatea River, work to install lighting and CCTV on the Pohe Island portion of the Loop walkway would be complete by the middle of this month.