I love a well-designed green space.
One that draws you in and encourages you to sit and relax, enjoying your surroundings, without you even realising it's done so.
One that pulls you from one sight to the next, naturally making you take in everything a place has to offer. Unfortunately, this is something I feel our lovely city is sorely lacking.
One of the side-effects of having a spouse with a degree in landscape architecture is the amount of time I've spent analysing public green spaces with him over the years.
I firmly believe good public spaces, especially green ones, are essential for the health and wellbeing of any community, and I hate seeing it at the bottom of priority lists for many.
We do actually have green spaces on our waterfront. We have the garden and playground by the Hairy Maclary statues, we have a wee green courtyard by the Devonport Rd entrance to the waterfront and the green lawn space where the Jazz Festival recently erected a giant tent to hold their Hurricane Parties.
We have family in Hawke's Bay and, much like Robin Bishop who wrote to us about the Napier waterfront gardens earlier this week (Letters, April 5), a stop at Napier's waterfront and botanic gardens is a must-see any time we visit.
It's been lovely watching the city develop its waterfront from a wasteland - derided for its lack of swimming opportunities because of the rough ocean - into a delightful space.
It meanders along, taking in the National Aquarium, an awesome bike/skate park for kids that mimics real roads, with traffic lights and roundabouts (to teach them road safety and how to keep left while they play), and the gardens Robin mentioned.
One can still enjoy the views and what the waterfront offers without necessarily getting your kit off and diving in.
It is a great example of a well-designed public space and, as a result, is quite the sight to behold.
Good passive spaces draw people in - we naturally gather there, whether we actually intended to or not.
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Robin rightly asked why we don't have equally great green space on our waterfront, here in Tauranga. Where Napier has gardens and water features and a beautiful statue of Pania, we have a carpark and a railway line.
Well, here's the thing. We do actually have green spaces on our waterfront. We have the garden and playground by the Hairy Maclary statues, we have a wee green courtyard by the Devonport Rd entrance to the waterfront and the green lawn space where the Jazz Festival recently erected a giant tent to hold their Hurricane Parties.
And while our waterfront green spaces aren't huge or world-changing, they are there. The problem, as I see it, is that unlike Napier or Wellington, our waterfront public spaces aren't well-connected. They're piecemeal. If I'm perfectly honest, the courtyard by Devonport Rd is so tucked away I only noticed it two weeks ago, and I've lived here five years.
So I think simply saying "we need more green space" isn't the answer. Yes, we absolutely do need more green space. One can never have enough green space. But more than that, I think we need to look long and hard at how those spaces are connected. We need to create spaces that naturally take visitors and locals alike from one feature to the next.
We need a visually appealing way to connect the end of the Matapihi Rail bridge walk/cycleway to that Devonport Rd courtyard. We need a beautiful connection between that lovely, green courtyard with the lawn space next to it, and the playground beyond that. The Masonic Pontoon project should also become part of it.
As should making The Strand pedestrian-only, which will help draw people from wandering around the CBD down to the waterfront, and vice versa.
Yes, we have a railway line that poses problems when it comes to the design of our waterfront. But instead of bemoaning it, let's turn it on its head and make it a feature.
Imagine if we had a cool pedestrian bridge/public artwork from The Strand to the waterfront, like Wellington's City to Sea bridge?
To create a truly great city, we need to find what makes us unique. We need to make the most of the features that we have that no other city does, and the railway line dissecting our waterfront is part of that.
So let's take the opportunity that the Civic Heart project offers us and make the most of it. Let's think about the big picture and connect all our lovely spaces. Then we'll have a waterfront and CBD we can all be proud of.