The heart of Whangarei's Cameron St Mall could be covered with the same material as the Beijing National Aquatic Centre or the world's largest eco-conservatory, The Eden Project in Britain, if plans for two canopies go ahead as part of a $2.67 million CBD facelift.

The initial design concept was discussed at yesterday's Whangarei District Council's 20/20 Inner City Revitalisation Committee, and is set to go before the full council for a decision. The project is due to go out for tender this month and could see Whangarei get a new paved pedestrian laneway from Cameron St through to James St, with two 13m-high canopies overhead.

The canopies would be made of ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene), a transparent polymer which also covers the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin. Plans for the mall revamp have been rolling for four years and have been through three rounds of consultation, said committee chairman, Councillor Phil Halse.

He said the mall was opened in 1997 but had not been updated since.


"Money has been set aside in the annual plan, but we held off as the design was fluid."

Retailers, he said, would be removing their own verandas, at their own expense, to make way for the canopies which could cover from Unichem Orrs Pharmacy to just below United Travel on Cameron St, and 10m down James St. A smaller covering would run from the glass canopy at the entrance to Quality St, across to the other side of Cameron St.

The large melia tree in the centre of the mall may have to be removed, said district living group manager Paul Dell.

A new grey paving was proposed for the stretch of Cameron St, down James St and leading to the Town Basin.

The project is part of the plan to connect the CBD with the Town Basin, encouraging footfall in both areas and developing the CBD as an area of entertainment, with a financial district and speciality shops.

WDC chief executive Mark Simpson told the meeting the plan would be presented to a full WDC meeting, where councillors could approve or reject the proposal, following the provision of all available information, such as ongoing maintenance costs.

If approved, the project would start in April and would not compromise any planning around the Fifa Under-20 World Cup in May.