Te Ara Manawa is an ‘off-road’ route around the neighbourhoods of Hobsonville Point (Onekiritea) – a loop of approximately four kilometres. The geographical characteristics of the peninsula landform made this linear park conceptually possible, but it was making this connection a fundamental building block of the masterplan – showing where and how it could actually happen, and drawing it in – that made it a reality.
Te Ara Manawa is more than a walkway; it is a healthy, green necklace stitched into the surrounding neighbourhoods through a fluted edge, linking social spaces that are built up from and reflect Hobsonville’s history and character. It is a habitat for people and wildlife that contrasts with the built-up intensity of the peninsula, and an opportunity for meeting and socialising, discovery through play, pausing, resting and contemplation. The range of potential experiences is diverse. Te Ara Manawa includes sculptural bridges suspended above bush-clad gullies, rest and picnic spots with elevated harbour views, a waterfront promenade, boardwalks through mangroves, art and sculpture in the landscape and pods where children can find play materials and where teenagers can unpack beanbags and relax.
The walkway also incorporates historical connections with remnant buildings and structures recalling the site’s former military and aviation history. Some of these buildings have been left in decaying states, adding adventure to the process of discovery, while others are preserved and re-purposed for community use.
In total, three-quarters of Hobsonville Point is encircled by the coastal walkway Te Ara Manawa. In te reo Māori, Te Ara Manawa means the ‘pathway among the mangroves’; however, it is also a play on words. Bernard Makaore, Ngāti Whātua o Kaipara, who worked with Isthmus and New York-based landscape practice Nelson Byrd Woltz on the walkway concept, says that Manawa also means ‘heart’ – although figuratively, not physically.
“This is most clearly illustrated in the traditional artistic term ‘te rarangi manawa’, which refers directly to the central or heart line “kowhaiwhai” of rafter patterns,” he says. “Te Ara Manawa therefore describes the physical lineal pathway that wends its way around the whole Hobsonville Point site. And it describes the heartfelt aspirations to advocate for the natural environment, species and habitats in ways that honour culture and welcome people: an authentic sense of place and community.”
Along the north-eastern escarpment (high path), the experience is one of coastal forest, intimate and quiet, with glimpses of the harbour through the tree canopy. The stretch between The Landing and Te Onekiritea Point (low path) is expansive and outward looking, with sculpted landforms providing a platform where views of the big skies and the Waitematā Harbour unfold.
The 11-hectare Te Onekiritea Point Park also serves as a regional destination for visitors arriving by ferry. Here, World War II-era munitions-storage buildings are spaced at regular intervals. Anecdotes from this era still abide; for instance, during the war, it is said these buildings were re-roofed with terracotta tiles so they looked like seaside homes, and the women living at the airforce base gathered and hung washing around them to deter aerial attacks.
The coastal walkway is hard-paved but low key. Along its length are clues, cues and interventions that hint at the magic of what is, essentially, a giant play trail. Every home in Hobsonville will be close to a link park where residents can join the walkway and stage one, including the inland section that crosses the site of Hobsonville Point Park and the Forest Floor Playspace.