Taranaki's Town Centre Revitalisation: A Time-Tested Triumph

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Over the Christmas break Garth visited Taranaki on the west coast of the North Island. In the late nineties, Garth was involved in town centre revitalisation work in Ngāmotu/New Plymouth and Waitara as a director of Isthmus Group. 

After 25 years, it was interesting to note the growth of the street trees and weathering of the surfacing and furniture. This work was some of the early upgrades to regional centres that has since been a feature across the country.

Common elements included introducing trees to provide shade and greenery along the main streets, widening footpaths focusing pause areas on street corners, and opening up of seafronts and riversides with walkways and gathering areas. Working closely with community representatives and Council at the time, the specifications of materials emphasised hardiness, longevity and availability of replacement.

Considering the harsh coastal conditions it is good to report that the light poles, paving and furniture is generally in good shape though hardwood decking is reaching the end of its life and is being replaced. Similarly in Matakana from around the same time hardwood deckings exposure to wet conditions means around a 20 year life span. The presence of lichens hastens water infiltration and hastens deterioration.    

The 60 Italian Alder trees down New Plymouths main Devon Street have successfully established and are now of a scale that Council are considering removing them. Some retailers have complained about leaf drop and too much shade. In the main street of Waitara McLean Street the Honey Locust trees have been topped and are growing back.

As long-term planning for town and city centres continue and have become more comprehensive, reviewing these early projects provides valuable input into considerations of maintenance programmes, the use of hardy indigenous species and lifespan planning and replacement funding

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At Reset Urban Design, we offer a broad scope of services within the specialist areas of Urban Design and Landscape Architecture. We also actively engage in research and have contributed two published books on the history of design in New Zealand.