I set off with the intention of calling in at Wellington’s i-site office and going up Mount Victoria to get a view of the city… best laid plans…
Actually, ignoring best laid plans is a good way of exploring a new place. It’s very easy to do if you’re easily distracted too.
My route into town took me past some philosophical street art – advice of life and the zen aspects of cycling – plus a tripod standing ominously over a pedestrian crossing.
I decided not to walk down that street.
Spotting a beautiful mural which definitely required a closer look, I discovered my view was blocked by the Victoria Street Sunday Market.
On the corner of Victoria and Vivian Streets, the Market is set up each week on a large carpark. All of the tables are laid out with fresh fruit and vegetables.
It’s a relaxed spot – people leisurely choosing the items they wish to buy, no hustle, no shouting of wares.
For 8NZD, I bought: 1 aubergine; 1 small sweet potato; 1 courgette; 3 red onion; 2 peppers (red and green); 4 large tomatoes and 1 garlic clove.
With a sachet of mixed herbs, this lot was going to be ratatouille – four main meals, with dessert being to use up some yoghurt (left in the fridge by the lady I was house-sitting for) and 3 large bananas.
Having picked up a map from the i-site and now carrying shopping, I changed my mind about Mount Victoria and wandered down to the Waterfront.
Forty years ago, the waterfront would not have been a destination. The wharfs were derelict and the carparks weren’t very exciting.
Since 1981, civic organisations and community groups have lobbied for and been consulted on the transformation of the harbour area.
The result of this community engagement is a waterfront that serves several purposes:
- It’s a beautiful spot for walking and cycling in and if the weather isn’t great, one of the sheds holds a climbing wall.
- There are two parks – offering children’s play areas and green spaces for quiet reflection.
- There are bars and restaurants – creating a social space and jobs.
- There is a live music arena among office spaces, supporting an improved cultural offer for the city and employment.
- The old buildings and cranes from the wharves have been restored and are either used for new functions – bars and museums – or as points of interest, such as the restored tripod crane.
- Art works have been placed around the waterfront, adding to the attractiveness of the area and creating some of the most interesting public toilets I’ve visited so far (and I’ve been to the Rocky Horror Loos in Hamilton).
What I found interesting was the way that the history of the waterfront development is presented. Unpopular ideas included the creation of a casino and community groups lobbied against this.
I like the fact that the mistakes are presented alongside the triumphs. There is no airbrushing of history.
And this is an urban development that has been firmly shaped by the Wellington community. The latest park to be added to the complex has come about as a result of the community engagement.
The history of the buildings and the machinery are also displayed. It became a thoroughly educational afternoon for me.
Every effort has been made to preserve the heritage and incorporate with new. The Circa Theatre has the facade of the Westeen Coalport Chamber at one end of the building, while the Hikitia is the last floating crane in Australasia… still in use.
It’s an astonishing area to wander around. I’ve been very impressed by the creation of parks in Russia (Zaryadye in Moscow for example) that combine a cultural and physical activity offer and the creation of the the greenways in Beijing to combine beauty with environmental action.
I haven’t seen any recent urban development that combines as much as the Wellington Waterfront and the fact that so much of this was shaped by community engagement and involvement shows what can be achieved.
It makes you think.