Waitara’s River Walk Wetland Boardwalk is a community asset that evokes connection between settlement and shoreline.
When Chow:Hill’s Landscape Architecture team was asked by Trevor Butler, project lead at Frame Group, to create a new riverside boardwalk for the north Taranaki community of Waitara, the team took inspiration from the native eel (tuna) to shape their design. For tangata whenua, the eel was both a food source and a means of connecting with their natural environment: habitat loss means this taonga is now in decline.
Creating a Connection
Taranaki’s coastal walkway is a well-established drawcard for the region. Stretching 12.7km along the coast from Port Taranaki to Bell Block, the route includes the iconic Len Lye Wind Wand, a sculpture earning international attention when the Lonely Planet travel guide listed Taranaki as one of the world’s best regions to visit in 2017.
But, further north lies the historic township of Waitara, which now has a distinctive walkway of its own – the Waitara River Walk Wetland Boardwalk. A New Plymouth District Council (NPDC) initiative, the Waitara Boardwalk extends over 200m along the Waitara River, from Queen Street to Marine Park. The design is a result of a collaborative approach between Chow:Hill and civil engineering and project management consultants, Frame Group.
Working closely with Frame Group’s Trevor Butler, Chow:Hill’s landscape architecture team set out to create a connection between Waitara’s town centre and the beach, providing both a pedestrian and cycle link between the two, while also providing an opportunity for users to experience the local wetland environment and ecology. Given the location of the boardwalk, the team also wanted to interweave function with New Zealand history to create a significant community asset.
Authentic landscape architecture creates a sense of place and purpose. Chow:Hill’s specialist team relished the challenge of designing a landmark and lasting structure that would be treasured by community members and visitors of all ages, while evoking the region’s significant environmental, cultural and historical heritage.
Consultative Design Approach with Project Partners
Along both the foreshore and river bank, the walkway had to be sympathetic to the surrounding environment, particularly the ecological wetlands. Chow:Hill needed to accommodate the use of man-made materials in a natural environment, for both the surface and the foundations of the boardwalk which would be established in the DOC-managed wetland.
Throughout the design process, Chow:Hill worked closely with project partners, Frame Group and New Plymouth District Council. Frame Group’s experience in urban, rural and wilderness track projects, including bridges on tramping tracks over streams and rivers, was crucial for Chow:Hill during the consultative design phase, particularly as the team wanted to create a community walkway that reflected the environment’s heritage.
Community Connection in the Region
The Waitara River Walk Wetland Boardwalk was one of three key projects the New Plymouth District Council completed in 2019 in time for summer activity. Other projects included the replacement of wooden steps to Fitzroy Beach and planting on Paritutu to help prevent erosion.
Also under development in the region are an extension of the Coastal Walkway to Waitara and the development of the Te Ara a Ruhihi Werapini trail between Ōākura and Pukeiti.
These walkways will further open the district to walkers and cyclists and the Chow:Hill team look forward to seeing how they continue to shape the possibilities for the local community and visitors to this iconic New Zealand region.
March 31, 2020