Concept plans to upgrade one of New Zealand's most significant cultural landscapes by honouring and highlighting its Māori history will now go ahead.
The proposed upgrade of Pāpāmoa Hills Regional Park was heard at a Bay of Plenty Regional Council Monitoring and Operations Committee today. The park is proposed to become Te Rae o Pāpāmoa, or Pāpāmoa Hills Cultural Regional Park.
The meeting heard that regional council staff had worked with representatives from Waitaha, Ngā Pōtiki, Ngāti Pūkenga, Ngāti He and others on the project's vision: to create a sustainable and rich experience at Te Rae o Pāpāmoa / Pāpāmoa Hills Cultural Heritage Regional Park for locals and visitors to enjoy.
Concept plans include a 3D bronze map, the telling of cultural stories from the park and how design work relates to them, highlighting archaeological sites, and a revamped entrance.
The carpark would also be moved away from its current site next to Fulton Hogan's Poplar Lane Quarry entrance, to be sited further east and expanded.
In a report presented to the regional council, it stated use of the park has increased more than 10 per cent annually in recent years, with 106,000 visitors using the tracks last year. The increased popularity highlighted safety issues with access to the carpark as well as the current lack of signage and information on the trails.
The report also referred to the park as "one of the most significant cultural landscapes" in the country.
Pāpāmoa Hills was the first regional park established outside the Auckland and Wellington regions. It contains many early Māori pā sites, with ditches and middens (rubbish heaps), as well as terracing on the hills.
The land was bought from the McNaughton family by Tauranga City Council and Western Bay of Plenty District Council in 2002, and then the regional council, before opening as a public park in 2004. Plans to upgrade it with an improved gateway, greater safety and historical references have been in motion since 2017.
In 2018, the regional council allocated $2.4 million of capital funding to the project but the new concept plans were expected to cost more. How much more is yet to be determined.
Regional council general manager of integrated catchments Chris Ingle told the meeting the plans were "amazing", a sentiment echoed by councillor Stuart Crosby.
Crosby said he had been going to the park and noticed its increased popularity, with the carpark often reaching 80 to 90 per cent capacity.
"Pāpāmoa Hills is becoming a real viable alternative to Mauao. Mauao itself is becoming highly used, there's difficulty in parking. I know people I talk to at Pāpāmoa Hills park are using that as a substitute.
"It's only going to grow [from the] 106,000 last count. I totally support it."
Councillor Matemoana McDonald said the redesign had been a long time coming and she was joined by fellow councillors Toi Iti and Te Taru White in applauding the plans and the efforts that went into them.
However, Iti warned staff to ensure every party involved signed each step of the process to prevent potential upset and blame later down the track.
When asked by councillor Norm Brunning what assurances they had of neighbourhood approval, senior projects officer Courtney Bell said they were still working with a neighbour on that.
Councillors Brunning, Crosby and Jane Nees volunteered to be part of the design group for the project, which was voted for unanimously. Regional council staff will now work on further design details, costs and construction plans for the project to begin in 2021.