WellUrban

Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Waterfront tweaks: Waitangi Park


I agree with the general direction that waterfront developments are taking, but there are a few areas that could definitely do with some work. So, I'll start a little series of posts about parts of the waterfront that could definitely do with a little tidying up, or some more imaginative uses.

Ugly blue pipes at the start of Waitangi StreamIt's hardly park weather, but let's start with Waitangi Park. In my last update, I mentioned that it (or at least Area 1) is officially complete, but there are definitely some areas that could do with some work. My main gripe is with the cheap little blue plastic pipes at the head of the wetlands. I keep hoping that these are just temporary, and that there's a plan to have something more attractive here, perhaps when the pou whenua are installed in the park before Waitangi Day. This is the first above-ground manifestation of the Waitangi Stream, and surely its historical, cultural and ecological importance deserves something more distinctive and prestigious than some left-over plumbing.

Waitangi Park - location of wetland featuresThe wetlands that constitute the rest of Waitangi Stream are looking lush and fantastic, and certainly have a more established feel than they did throughout last year. The exception is the "subsurface wetland" at the southeast corner. While the maze-like layout works well, and people seem to like threading their way through the various boardwalks and stepping stones, the gravel and reed-beds look sad and dead. There was a hint of new growth during spring, but that hasn't amounted to much, so there's a lot of work for the plant experts to do here. The little concrete "passing bays", with wood and red metal uprights, also look a bit odd and unfinished. I had heard that there were vague plans to put interpretive signs on these, and certainly it would be great to let people know about the important role the subsurface wetlands play in cleaning the stream water.

There are a lot of other problems with the greenery in the park, although most of those are presumably just teething troubles and will either sort themselves out when the plants become more established, or can be easily fixed as part of the park maintenance. The drainage in the field seem more problematic, and the entire northern edge resembles a second wetland for much of the time. I'm told that the ground never had time to recover from the compaction it suffered during last summer's concerts, and once the appalling winter set in, the damage was done. Perhaps once this "summer" is over, there'll be an opportunity to dig up the problem areas and re-seed them.

Waitangi Park wind garden - awaiting finishing touchesFinally, I don't think the Wind Garden is complete. The uprights for the wind screens have been installed, but there's still no sign of the screens themselves, apart from a single sheet of perforated metal lying around. Perhaps they're waiting for the poetry screens that were originally planned before the budget blew out, and they'd definitely be better than boring old metal screens. In the meantime, though, neither people nor the trees that are supposed to provide future shelter stand much chance of surviving a decent Wellington wind on this corner.

That probably all sounds too negative, but otherwise I think the park is working well, and the Chaffers Dock development should really liven things up when it (finally!) opens. Waitangi Park could still benefit from a few small changes and a bit of attention to detail, and I'm sure you've all got your own suggestions and niggles.

11 Comments:

At 3:22 PM, January 10, 2007, Blogger Seamonkey Madness said...

I'm surprised you haven't complained about the high-pitched singing of the lamp-posts along the waterfront between Te Papa and Waitangi.

Or instead of a symptom of poor engineering failing to recognise the length at which the lamp post would produce it natural frequency, is it a ironic nuance from some cheeky landscaping designer?

Sorry I haven't bothered to search wellurban about it, but what are you thoughts on this?

 
At 3:43 PM, January 10, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

Yes, I should have mentioned that. My first thought about them was "how bloody irritating", but then when some people said that they quite liked it I wasn't so sure. In some ways it's interesting in an Aeolian Harp sort of way (an audible wind-sculpture, perhaps), and it's certainly very Wellington! On the other hand it emphasises the bleakness of a windy day, and once a few more people start living and working nearby it'll become even more of an annoyance.

BTW, I think it's the wind-shields around the pohutukawa that are creating the whistles, not the lamp-posts. Come to think of it, maybe that's why they're holding off on installing the wind screens in the Wind Garden?

 
At 3:46 PM, January 10, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I quite like the "whistling posts" I suspect it is a combination of both the post and the screens, driven by the wind being shed round the "prow" or TePapa,

You can really see how the budget must have blown out with Waitangi park, the trees and all the planted greenery all seem way to small for the scale of the park ( it will be fine in 10 years time as they grow, but all seems a bit out of place now)

Regarding the blue pipe, I think this is a result of currently running tap water through the system, I don't think the resource consent to use street runoff has been approved, so they are having to keep things alive with reticulated supply.

The only thing that rather bugs me is the old graving dock, I am not sure how useful a pebble garden with a few hardy plants will be ,

A better option may have been to actually grass to middle section from the path down to above the beach, with the concrete terraces it would have been a great sunken place to let little kids run in,

The "green" has still not recovered from the arts festival pavillion by the O/seas terminal, that killed the grass at the eastern end. With the crappy winter and the Golden oldies rubgy tents, it has simply not recovered.

 
At 4:25 PM, January 10, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

"You can really see how the budget must have blown out with Waitangi park, the trees and all the planted greenery all seem way to small for the scale of the park ( it will be fine in 10 years time as they grow, but all seems a bit out of place now)"

I don't think the budget has anything to so with the smallness of the trees: there's presumably an upper limit for how large and mature a tree can be and still survive transplanting. Still, it really does look flat and empty without mature trees, and it's hard to imagine how it will be in a decade or so when the pohutukawa form proper allees and the nikau form a little grove in the corner.

"Regarding the blue pipe, I think this is a result of currently running tap water through the system, I don't think the resource consent to use street runoff has been approved, so they are having to keep things alive with reticulated supply."

The consent to use stream (stormwater) water for the wetlands was granted back in September, and I thought they'd moved away from "tap water" soon afterwards. I could be wrong, though.

"The only thing that rather bugs me is the old graving dock, I am not sure how useful a pebble garden with a few hardy plants will be"

I've come to quite like that little garden. As spring rolled around, many of the plants flowered in their own quiet little way, and it was really rather lovely. Perhaps "useful" is not the right word for it, but I think it's a good interpretation of a flower/shrub garden for a Wellington coastal context.

You're right about the lowest terrace being a good potential play area, though I'm not sure that grass would have been the best answer. I'd have liked the beach to have been excavated a bit, to allow the tide to run up underneath the bridge.

In general, this area suffers because it lacks its intended context. Once there's a gallery building and some sort of raised garden (not the Chinese Garden any more, of course!) west of the graving dock gardens, they'll feel much more sheltered and intimate, plus there'll be more people around to make use of the terraces for eating lunch etc. It'll be a nice change from the big grassed area.

"The "green" has still not recovered from the arts festival pavillion by the O/seas terminal, that killed the grass at the eastern end. With the crappy winter and the Golden oldies rubgy tents, it has simply not recovered."

Yes, the festival tent, the concert stage and the "Earth from Above" map have all contributed to killing the lawn, and the rugby tents can't have helped. I think the grass is growing back a bit more healthily now, but the bigger problem is that the underlying earth became compacted and impermeable, leading to a permanent wet area beside the path on the northern edge. Perhaps future stages could be set back onto the concrete path a bit to protect the grass.

 
At 5:46 PM, January 10, 2007, Anonymous Simon said...

What i find interesting is if they had 'marketed' the poles as a sound sculpture, it would probably have won an award... ;)

As for the size of the trees, your quite right there is a theoretical limit as to what size can be transplanted. However you could definitely have planted much larger specimens if there was the budget...not surprisingly the cost to source, transplant and plant those kind of trees would be far too high...even more so after the budget blow-out

 
At 6:25 PM, January 10, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That earlier poster made a very good point about the quality of the grass at Waitangi park. Grass should be green and lush. That whole park needs to be reseeded asap as this would make a huge difference. Any word on the John Wardle building Tom. I believe construction is due to begin this year. I hope this and the UN studio building don't get delayed or cancelled altogeather to to funding issues or some other crap.

 
At 8:54 AM, January 11, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

Simon: yes, I'm sure they could have planted bigger trees (the "Greening the Trees" ones are a bit bigger), but I didn't think the choice of young ones was due to the budget problems. I'd heard that the smaller plants had been selected and growing in nurseries for a year or more before planting, and I assumed the same applied to the trees. However, if you've heard that the tree size was cut back due to the budgets, then fair enough.

Anon: the grass has definitely been reseeded, and is looking much healthier and less patchy than it did a few months ago. I think the main problem is deeper, though, and the drainage can't be fixed without digging it up and reseeding a whole lot.

As for the Wardle building, I had some vague word late last year that design work was progressing, but I haven't heard anything else recently.

 
At 2:06 PM, January 11, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I spent some time down at Waitangi Park during Wellington's one day of summer on Saturday. It is lovely and worth spending some time there ... but where are the toilets?

 
At 2:34 PM, January 11, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

"I spent some time down at Waitangi Park during Wellington's one day of summer on Saturday. It is lovely and worth spending some time there"

It should be lovely down there right now, too: the temperature's finally made it above 20 degrees!

"... but where are the toilets?"

In the kiosk, behind the cafe. I think there'll be some more in the Chaffers Dock building when the ground floor opens, and there are some planned as part of the Area 2 stage of the park.

 
At 3:55 PM, September 20, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey im doing a First year architecture project . Im required to consider a particular site in wellington. I choose Waitangi Park. Im Wondering if there are any significant conflict between the park and its surroundings? any infomation would be apreciated

Sean

 
At 2:36 PM, September 24, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

Hi Sean,

There are a couple of areas where the relation between the park and its surroundings are problematic. Some of the users surveyed were worried that the fence between the playground and the road wasn't secure enough, and there really ought to be a better crossing at the Cable/Herd St corner.

Any other problems with the interface between the park and surroundings should be fixed when the plans for Areas 2 and 3 come to fruition. At the moment, the park bleeds off somewhat purposelessly towards the northeast and west, but the planned buildings and landscaping for those two sites should ensure activity and spatial definition.

Is that the sort of info that you're after?

 

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