Tuesday, 24 November 2020

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Taputapuātea footbridge project to recommence in August

The completion of the Taputapuātea footbridges project in Whitianga is set to recommence in mid-August according to Andrew Scobie, Thames-Coromandel District Council project manager. He says that council now has formal Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga (HNZPT) consent and that he is seeking approval of the resource consent application to commence the required earthworks and complete the construction of the bridges without further delay.

The bridges and boardwalk are being built to give much safer pedestrian access to Buffalo Beach and the reserves around the Taputapuātea Stream (including the Taputapuātea Spit). The bridges will also connect with the Pacific Estate walkway and link up to the existing footpath between the Whitianga Wharf and Brophy’s Beach, providing a safer and more appealing pedestrian alternative to the State Highway 25 bridge across the Taputapuatea Stream.

Construction of the footbridges and boardwalk started in October last year. However, the project was put on hold in the early summer when HNZPT requested for more consultation with local iwi around the cultural values of the area. This meant that the resource consent application to undertake the earthworks required for the approaches to the bridges and boardwalk could not be processed, and work was halted.

Joe Davis, Ngati Hei kaumatua, says they have insisted throughout the consultation period that the project goes ahead because it is important to get the bridges open to the public as soon as possible.

Once the bridges are completed, there will be ongoing consultation driven by Ngati Hei about how to honour the wahi tapu (sacred area) of the Taputapuātea Spit, but in Joe’s words, this is a much bigger discussion and not just about aesthetic artworks.  The Taputapuātea Spit, which is part of what originally formed Taputapuātea Beach (pre-Buffalo Beach), has a deep cultural connection with Taputapuātea on Raiatea Island - considered to be the spiritual centre of Eastern Polynesia and the origin of Mercury Bay’s first settlers.   The wahi tapu of the area is of cultural importance not just to local iwi, and Mercury Bay residents and visitors, but to the global guardians of Polynesian heritage. 

Because the discussion is so much more profound, there will need to be dialogue with a wider group of stakeholders that hopefully will result in a comprehensive plan taking into account possible future development, aesthetic artwork, interpretative signage and the ecosystem of the area.

In the meantime, Joe says that Ngati Hei support is in full support of getting the bridges completed as soon as possible so that they can be used by all. He adds that the way the project has been progressed to date has been good in that it highlighted the heritage value of the Taputapuātea Stream area of Buffalo Beach.

Pictured: The almost-completed footbridge across the Taputapuātea Stream in Whitianga.

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