It's great that Whanganui won the Keep New Zealand Beautiful Awards for most beautiful city and best street. Our successful bid for most beautiful city identified a number of local initiatives such as street art, shared pathways and coast care.
So far so good. But can we win again next year? If we are to have a chance, how do we keep up the beautification momentum? I have a few ideas.
We could pay more attention to our entrances on SH3 and SH4. For instance, motorists approaching the Cobham Bridge from the south pass attractive plantings and the stylish roundabout, but the walkway/cycleway is often scruffy with overgrown trees and weeds.
And after crossing the river the former timber yard site is an eyesore. How about turning it into a park. It would make a great addition to the riverbank park already established beside it.
The northern approaches from SH3 at Westmere and SH4 at Whanganui East could be enhanced by more imaginative signage. Billboards welcoming Te Araroa Trail walkers would help boost our reputation as New Zealand's most trail-friendly city. First impressions matter.
The repaired riverbank walkway/cycleway is nice and shiny but basically industrial and arid. It needs softening, as does the City Bridge. Flower boxes are common on bridges in Europe and the artificial flowers placed on the City Bridge in honour of a young man killed there a year ago actually make it more attractive.
Imagine if primary schools were invited to take turns to decorate the bridge for one month a year. And the new concrete panels facing the river on the walkway/cycleway will be marvellous for murals. Hopefully these panels will be transformed when the street arts festival returns next year. Graffiti has already begun to appear there.
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I went to Europe this year and it is interesting to pick up ideas from other places. For instance, in Brighton, UK, the buses have the names of prominent citizens across their fronts. Imagine if our buses had such names as Jane Winstone, Sir Jerry Mateparae, Peter Belliss, Paul Callaghan, Edith Collier and Joan Morrell on them. Personal touches have impact.
In the concourse of the Brighton railway station stands a piano, which commuters are free to play. It's much appreciated by people waiting for their service. I recall enjoying hearing one fellow skilfully run through tunes from The Phantom of the Opera. An idea for the Trafalgar Square shopping centre. (I know we have had pianos in the past in Guyton St and outside the old Chronicle building in Drews Ave).
Parks I visited often had patches of wild flowers growing in the lawns, which made the areas both more informal and attractive. In France I was taken with the signage to encourage people to take away their dog poo, featuring a jaunty pooch. I love the lighting on the Dublin St Bridge and want to see it extended all the way across. We may have lost the Thain building but we now have a space that offers an opportunity. Thain Park has a nice ring to it.
These are a few ideas and there will be plenty more out there. Maybe we need the district council to sponsor regular public forums for citizens to brainstorm on how to make us a more vivid community. As well, what about a citizens' committee that collects, assesses and refines ideas and then passes them on to the council?
A mass of little improvements and upgrades will together create not just a more beautiful Whanganui, but even better, a more feel-good, lively and liveable community.
• Dave Scoullar is a tramper, conservationist and member of the TeAraroa Whanganui Trust.