Volunteers are racing the clock to get a community-built park on the Paihia waterfront ready for tonight's official opening.

Members of the Focus Paihia community trust have been working since mid-winter to turn what had been an asphalt car park next to the town wharf into a public space with boardwalks, sculptures, seating, gardens and a busker's corner with a public piano. Coloured LED lights will illuminate the park at night and link it to the rest of town.

The opening, dubbed Light Up Paihia, will start at 7pm tonight with the group's annual meeting followed by a blessing and an introduction to the park from 7.30pm. The lights will be ceremonially switched on at 8.30pm.

A dolphin-themed drinking fountain designed to reduce the use of plastic water bottles, a project by the pupils of Opua School, will also be unveiled.


Yesterday contractors were relaying an asphalt path while volunteers were scrambling to put the finishing touches to the gardens and the lighting system. Only the grass, which has yet to sprout in places, cannot be hurried up.

Focus Paihia member Sarah Greener vowed the park would be ready in time.

"It's going to be fantastic, a real celebration of what Paihia's about - a vibrant community with people who want to make it a better place for everyone," she said. "A lot of the work over winter had been underground and involved laying more than a kilometre of conduits and cables."

The transformation was funded by Focus Paihia's op shop in Selwyn Rd and a targeted rate collected from central Paihia residents and businesses.

It has not been without controversy, some business owners and residents objecting to the loss of 26 parking spaces next to the wharf and i-Site. They say parking is already scarce in Paihia in midsummer. Focus Paihia plans to work with the school to open up part of its field in summer for extra parking.

A new boardwalk/outdoor dining area is also being built over the water next to 35 Degrees South restaurant. Originally part of Far North Holdings redevelopment plans for the Paihia waterfront, it was shelved in 2011 but is now being built by the restaurant's owners instead.

Other Focus Paihia projects include the transformation of the once-grotty Marsden Rd toilets and the Village Green.

Focus Paihia will provide meat and bread for tonight's community barbecue, but guests are requested to bring their own plates, cutlery, drink and a salad or dessert to share.