This is a guest post from Tony Horton, Senior Strategic Planner at Whangarei District Council
What will the heart of Whangarei be like in 20 years? This is the question currently being asked by Whangarei District Council.
But this is not being asked through the usual myriad of planning documents, strategic frameworks or growth strategies. This time the Council has put together a new website showing a list of key projects, such as turning a waterfront car park into a park or a new theatre complex.
The idea is that these projects are a more tangible way to talk to the community about the future of their city rather than using alien planning language and RMA speak.
It is also an opportunity to celebrate some of the great projects that have been completed over the last few years which have had a focus on connectivity for pedestrians and cyclists.
Te Matau A Pohe, Huarahi O Te Whai cycleway/walkway and the Canopy Pedestrian Bridge are world class projects that have had a meaningful impact on Whangarei. They have opened up the waterfront for pedestrians and cyclists.
Since opening the use of the cycleway around the Whangarei waterfront has increased by over 130%. It is being used by both commuters and recreational users, it is being used by the young and old, by residents and visitors.
The challenge for Whangarei now is how best to build on these successes. Although we are the 8th largest district and growing, we do not have the spending power of the likes of Auckland.
One answer has been to see the Councils role as creating the canvas on which the community then paints a picture. A good example of this is since delivering the basic infrastructure of the cycleway/walkway, community groups and charities have contributed park benches, art works and fitness equipment and commercial enterprises are looking providing cafes, cycle hire and food outlets. This helps create community cohesion and sense of ownership.
So moving to the future, there are number of projects and ideas which could be catalyst for further quality developments and economic growth. The ideas range from a new theatre with conference facilities, to a new cycleway along a city river connecting the waterfront to Whangarei Growers Market, to enabling more inner city living.
The website gives an overview for each project, including those that have been completed, those in the planning and finally those which are still just ideas or future concepts. It then allows you to make a comment or just simply click that you like the idea.
So the Council is seeking feedback on these ideas, from residents and visitors to Whangarei, but also from the developers, architects, planners, engineers and community organisations. We want to hear from people from all walks of life.
So tell us what you like about each of these projects and what you would change? What do you think is missing? And what should be a priority?