It has been languishing on the books since 2011. But a planned transformation of the Taupō town centre, which would take through-traffic off Tongariro St and instead send it along Spa Rd or Paora Hapi St and then down Titiraupenga St is almost ready to start, thanks to $20 million of shovel-ready money from the Government's Infrastructure Reference Group.
In April, during the alert level 4 lockdown, the Government called for a list of shovel-ready projects - construction projects that could be up and running within six months of approval - to be submitted for assessment.
Taupō District Council put forward 16 possible projects. One has been rejected, 14 others are still in the pipeline and one - the town centre transformation - has been awarded grant funding.
The project, which is expected to create or retain 92 jobs, has been on the council's books since it developed the Taupō Commercial Industrial Structure Plan in 2011.
Although some improvements identified in the plan have been progressed, such as the $1.05m upgrade of Heuheu St in 2014 and several intersection makeovers, there has never been enough money for the big-ticket item in the plan, which is to shift through-traffic from Tongariro St and Lake Terrace to around the eastern edge of the town centre instead.
The changes will still allow traffic into the town centre and there will be parking available but vehicles bypassing the town centre will not flow along Tongariro St.
That will allow better connections with the Tongariro Domain, the lakefront and the Taupō Boat Harbour.
The 2011 Commercial Industrial Structure Plan was developed after a long period of planning and community engagement to come up with a vision of how the Taupō town centre could look. As part of that, the consultation on the plan considered bigger development patterns and street networks and identified a list of projects.
Council chief executive Gareth Green said although the council has beautified some of the higher-profile intersections in town it has not been able to afford to put the overall plan into action, until now.
Being able to complete the reorientation of the street network will, in turn, enable other town centre development projects to progress.
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Green said there were four parts to the town centre transformation. The first was continuing with intersection beautifications, with the next ones on the list being Paora Hapi/Gascoigne Sts, Tūwharetoa/Ruapehu Sts and Horomatangi/Ruapehu Sts, the first of which will start on August 10.
The second part of the project was changing Titiraupenga St to a through-road for traffic bypassing the town centre.
"So that if you have no intention of coming to the town centre you naturally go along Spa Rd, Titiraupenga St and out."
Green said how to achieve making Titiraupenga St a through-road was still to be decided but it would result in intersection changes, whether traffic lights, roundabouts or other treatments.
"We're currently working through the design of those."
Because the concept of a through-road along Titiraupenga St had been in place since 2004 and reaffirmed in 2011 it would not be consulted on again, although the council would be having conversations with nearby business owners before construction began, he said.
However, the emphasis was on creating employment and so the project would be moving ahead quickly with the redesign of Titiraupenga St also commencing shortly.
"We know what we're doing but we have to do the work and the consultation with neighbours about exactly what that looks like."
Stage three of the project is the section of Tongariro St from the Spa Rd roundabout to the Lake Terrace intersection with Titiraupenga St, he said.
"What the structure plan always talked about was Tongariro St changing from four lanes to two lanes. Creating that to be a boulevard, pulling people into there if they are visitors, incorporating more parking, bus and other transport, linking the Domain with town and getting rid of the barrier of the road.
"We've got some very high-level designs and those have been talked about for years but we need to get into more specific designs and have discussions with retailers and owners along that stretch. We're not going to shut it to cars but it'll be slower speeds."
That stage of the project included what Green called "the front of house", the stretch of Lake Terrace from Titiraupenga St to the big fish.
"That's a real opportunity to make that our promenade. At the moment we have Roberts St, Colonel Roberts Reserve and a main highway and we don't need that so there's opportunity to have a concept design. It would be about still enabling vehicles to go through there but at a much slower speed and changing it from vehicle priority to pedestrian priority."
Green said for people who wanted to drive to the town centre there would still be car parking and all-day carparks but it will have more of a mall feel to it.
"We're not saying you won't get carparks outside the shop you want to go to. You can, but it's not going to be high speed, it might be slightly slower and take you a couple of minutes more.
"We're not doing away with cars. We still need cars circulating through and people need to be able to drive to where they want to go shopping but making it more attractive for people to linger longer in the town centre and slowing traffic down and getting traffic that doesn't need to be there, out."
The fourth stage of the project is an upgrade of Tūwharetoa St, which Green said could be Taupō's version of Rotorua's popular Eat Streat, a covered pedestrian dining precinct, although the design is yet to be done.
"It's the least developed in terms of the thinking but looking at what we do with that street, do you make it an eat street like Rotorua, have vehicles in there at all? The jury's still out on that one. We need to consult with people to have a design that enables that street to sing."
Green hoped all stages of construction could be completed by 2022 and was confident Taupō district firms had the skills and expertise to do the work.
The council recently changed its contract tendering process to give a 15 per cent weighting to local firms bidding for work.
"We have conversations with contractors since we made these applications and there's a number of firms both in the consultancy design phase and the physical construction part of it locally who can do the job."
Green said the council was acutely aware that there would be some disruption to businesses and was working with Towncentre Taupō, the Taupō Chamber of Commerce and Hospitality NZ to try to manage that, but added that post-construction the upgrade would encourage people to stay and shop in the town centre.
"The construction period will have an impact, we're going to do everything we can to try and avoid that through the learnings we have picked up through other works we've done. We'll try and design and schedule it in chunks so we can keep people moving through and around business, weekends and the like but there still will be an impact, we are on a tight time frame.
"We're really conscious of that but also this is going to support a whole lot of jobs in the district and those same people are out there purchasing goods and services."
The flow-on effect is that Taupō would not only be left with a transformed town centre but the money would put $20m of additional work into the local economy.
It also frees up council money to do other things in future years, Green said.
"And the real advantage is that unlike a lot of our other applications this doesn't have an operational effect on us, it's not like a pool where you have operational costs and we don't depreciate roads, so financially it's a really good project for us to have got the money for. And it's pure grant funding, it's not a loan that we have to pay back."
Taupō town centre transformation: four stages
1. Town centre intersection upgrades; Titiraupenga St redesign
2. Spa Rd or Paora Hapi St to Titiraupenga St through-road construction
3. Tongariro St and Lake Terrace to Titiraupenga St reconstruction
4. Tūwharetoa St reconstruction.