A long-neglected spot under the Harbour Bridge has been restored.
In pre-European times, the site was a stronghold of great strategic importance. More recently, it has been a bit of neglected land underneath the northern end of the Auckland Harbour Bridge.
Now, after a dawn opening ceremony attended by Transport Minister Philip Twyford, the rehabilitated Te Onewa Pa/Stokes Point is a gem waiting to be discovered. Polishing this diamond in the rough has been a 10-year process, which began as part of the box girder (‘clip-ons’) strengthening.
“Work was going on day and night,” says landscape architect Cathy Challinor. “NZTA asked us to help find a way of giving something back to the community living near the northern abutment of the bridge.”
The project became a catalyst for increased engagement and relationship-building between NZTA, local iwi, Auckland Council, the Local Board and residents; and commitment grew on all sides for a comprehensive solution.
Stage One and Two comprised the award-winning Trestle Leg Series and the upgrade and enhancement of the natural and cultural landmarks that were altered during construction of the bridge.
But there was more to be done to the former pa site.
“It’s quite a small piece of land, and the cliffs drop away, so there’s water all around you – and the bridge overhead emphasises the wide horizon, and creates a very intimate experience,” Cathy says.
Several iwi have connections to the place, but any kind of cultural or historic associations had been disregarded in the name of progress fifty years earlier. Input from tangata whenua and Heritage NZ helped determine three objectives – access, safety and celebration – that informed the design.
A raised timber walkway and platform minimises disturbance to the much-traumatised earth, and a pedestrian bridge crosses the only remaining visible feature of the historical pa site – the defensive trench. The bridge sits above the ground, sparing it from further disturbance.
The new balustrade illustrates the level of care that stakeholders brought to the project. An old timber post-and-rail fence was removed and each existing post hole was individually drilled out. The sub-grade was tested and a new fence was designed around those post-hole points.
Similar care was taken with planting installation and erosion control. No additional topsoil could be added to the historic site, so system of ponga logs were used to stabilise the slopes and provide protection for native plants.
A pouwhenua carved from heart Totara by Reuben Kirkwood of Nga Tai ki Tamaki was revealed during the dawn blessing, and recognises the whakapapa of mana whenua; and the memorial to workers who lost their lives during construction of the bridge remains nearby.
Cathy says that the project has achieved far more than its initial brief.
“Ten years ago, it felt like we’d all turned our back to this spot. So our goal was to find a way to allow people in while still protecting the land. We want mana whenua, Auckland residents, and visitors from all over to experience Auckland and the harbour from this amazing vantage point. From start to finish, this project has been about working together and rebuilding connections.”
|Find out more||Auckland Harbour Bridge Trestle Leg Series >
Detailed design and Specification >
|Sector||Community and Recreation >|
Council and Government >
Cultural Advisory / Te Hihiri >
For further information please contact Cathy Challinor
26 February 2018