New Plymouth’s coastal walkway can be described in three moves: connect the coastal dots, connect to the city and focus on the Huatoki. Connecting the dots meant creating destinations along the coast even when there wasn’t a budget for the entire scope of works.
In pre-European times, New Plymouth, sitting in the shadow of Mount Taranaki, was known as Ngā Motu, the Islands, after the Sugar Loaf Islands that sit just off the coast. Māori have occupied the area for hundreds of years, and the city’s Pākehā heritage dates back to the 1820s, when whalers started hauling their boats ashore. The 1850s would see in the erosion of the beach and, eventually, across the subsequent decades, a small town would be established, a breakwater port built, railway yards constructed on reclaimed land across the mouth of the bay and a railway line built to run along the foreshore. In time, an arterial road would amplify this barrier and the foreshore reserve would sit abandoned behind a deteriorating sea wall. This city really had turned its back to the wild Tasman Sea.
New Plymouth remained hunkered down against the coast until 1995, when the Taranaki District Council commissioned a masterplan to reverse the city’s inland bearing. ‘Mountain to Sea’ it was called, and it proposed a number of physical and visual links between the city and its waterfront and guided the implementation of several major projects.
The implementation of the city’s now-famous coastal walkway – initially six kilometres of pathway and boardwalk, and later, following public affirmation of the project, extended to 11 kilometres – was the first project commissioned. In the years following, a sequence of works was undertaken to reorganise the city centre. The Huatoki Walkway, a series of spaces connecting city with sea along the path of the reintroduced Huatoki Stream, eventually established a strong link with the foreshore and created a higher profile for the cultural centre of Puke Ariki.
The overall strategy applied at New Plymouth involved extending the city grid across road and railway to the coast. At the edge, the street grid dissolves into finger piers, the largest of which is an extension of the Puke Ariki Landing, which cantilevers out eight metres over the Tasman Sea.
While New Plymouth’s collective spaces allow for a number of civic and recreational experiences, the coastal walkway is the city’s most evocative built landscape. At the intersection between shoreline and city, marked by the ceaseless shifting of Len Lye’s Wind Wand, the walkway extends out, protected from the sea by a deep and wide boulder wall. At certain points, when enough protection is not offered, the walkway ducks inland to provide shelter, but at all times the vast expanse of water and horizon is maintained.
David Irwin, Blair Brixton, Helen Kerr,
Nik Kneele, Philip Henderson, Tim Fitzpatrick
Richard Bain Landscape Architects
Tonkin & Taylor
Fletcher Construction (New Plymouth Foreshore, Woolcombe Terrace);
Kerb & Driveway Specialists (Coastal Walkway East); Whittaker Civil Engineering (Coastal Walkway Extension to Bell Block)
New Plymouth District Council
2006 NZILA George Malcolm Supreme Award
2006 NZILA Gold Award Urban Design
2005 Ministry for the Environment Year of the Build Environment, Highly Commended