The Ngāmotu New Plymouth City Centre Strategy sets the strategic direction for New Plymouth’s city centre over the next 30 years. It provides NPDC, Ngāti Te Whiti and the community with a ‘route map’ to revitalise the city centre. The Strategy has been shaped by stakeholder and community engagement sessions during its preparation.
The city centre covers 22 blocks, approximately 1.25 sq.km between Fulford/Lemon streets to the south and the coast to the north, bookended by Dawson Street to the west and Hobson Street to the east. The area includes approximately 1,350 businesses that employ 10,300 workers and is home to around 1,100 residents.
The City Centre Strategy has been prepared to:
Ngāti Te Whiti Hapū and Te Atiawa Iwi have been active in and around the area for centuries. As tangata whenua, these experiences and this mātauranga are considered valuable for the City Centre Strategy in order for it to reach its potential and make a demonstrable difference to the wellbeing of Māori and our community.
Ngāti Te Whiti and Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa are landowners in the city centre and hold statutory acknowledgements over the Huatoki and Mangaotuku along with their tributaries, and the coast. Ngāti Te Whiti and Te Kotahitanga continue to work towards the recognition and protection of waahi tapu and sites and areas of significance to Ngāti Te Whiti through mechanisms such as the New Plymouth District Plan.
A Cultural Values Statement (CVS) was prepared by Ngāti Te Whiti in June 2021 to specifically inform the City Centre Strategy. The CVS identified the following cultural values through which the implementation of the Strategy must uphold:
Ngā Kaupapa (Values)
Ngā Whakamāramatanga (Explanations)
Rangatiratanga me te Mana
A tangata whenua voice is always present with respect to the protection, management and advocacy of their spiritual, cultural and historical associations, interests and aspirations.
Whanaungatanga / Kotahitanga
Recognises the importance of working together to achieve a common understanding and reaching a consensus on how mutually beneficial outcomes will be achieved.
Consensus, respect for individual differences and participatory inclusion for decision making
Recognises the obligations of Ngāti Te Whiti as kaitiaki (guardians) to manage resources and interests in accordance with their customary preferences.
Mai Taranaki Maunga Ki Uta Ki Tai / Integrated Management
The Māori concept of integrated management relies on the idea that the mauri of an area/natural, physical, cultural resource cannot be assessed in isolation of its surroundings and must be based on the mauri of interrelated components in the wider catchment.
Te Tirohangaroa / Forward looking
Consideration of the future environment, and the impacts of use and development on the ability of future generations to provide for themselves are key components of sustainable management as required under the RMA.
This is a key value of Tapuae Roa – a regional economic strategy for Taranaki.
The intent of these cultural values are embodied in its Goals, Principles and Key Moves. During implementation of the strategy, through identified projects and initiatives, reference to these values is to occur to ensure the processes and detailed design/development of projects and initiatives continue to uphold these values of Ngāti Te Whiti.
The City Centre Strategy is an area-based, non-statutory planning ‘document’ with relationships to other regional and local strategies and plans. The Strategy takes direction from the New Plymouth District Blueprint 2015 and its aspirational and supplementary detail aligns with New Plymouth’s Proposed District Plan 2019. The Strategy will inform the development of NPDC’s Long Term and Annual plans.
Engagement Series/ Co-Create Workshop 1
The first round of Community Engagements focused on building relationships with a wide range of participants, all with an interest in how the City Centre will develop in years to come.
By shaping input collectively with an understanding for the opportunities and constraints of the City Centre, we began to test and map with the broadest range of community inputs, what development opportunities will mean, and how they can be delivered. Round one set the foundation for further engagement and focus sessions.
Engagement Series/ Co-Create Workshop 2
The focus for our second round of workshop engagements was to bring back to the community and test the Key Moves that will shape the actions and programme to deliver the City Centre Strategy.
Each Key Move builds on the input and feedback from Round One, and frames the big opportunities for the city centre— informing where to focus and prioritise investment—tested with the communities who helped shape them.
The city centre’s greatest asset is its coastal edge. The Coastal Walkway creates a world class experience and goes some way to connecting the city to the sea. The fantastic natural setting includes the Huatoki Stream, which runs through the city centre core to the sea, and Taranaki Maunga, which provides a breath-taking backdrop and range of leisure opportunities.
Māori culture and identity are increasingly celebrated across New Plymouth with hapū and iwi empowered in their customary kaitiaki role. Māori values (rangatiratanga, whanaungatanga and kotahitanga) must be integrated with city centre planning and decision-making so the commercial potential of hapū and iwi is unleashed.
The city centre is within a comfortable 10-minute walk, bike ride and bus or car journey from most of urban New Plymouth, with minimal congestion. The airport is within a 15-minute drive, with flight times to Auckland or Wellington less than an hour. The relatively gentle topography of the city centre, sloping to the sea, has contributed to its national reputation as cycle-friendly.
Occupied for centuries, the area has a rich cultural and built heritage. The Huatoki Stream also has the opportunity to fulfil a role as an ara (pathway) through the city centre linking activities along its length.
Ngāti Te Whiti mātauranga is valuable and must be sought to ensure locally distinctive outcomes, along with greater inclusion of Māori names and story-telling.
As an early colonial town (established in the 1840s), the city centre’s remaining heritage building stock offers a valued built character.
Collectively this heritage imbues the city centre with a greater sense of place and will be critical to its long-term success.
Built on a grid pattern, with north-south streets that open to the sun, the layout not only supports ease and legibility of way-finding but creates versatile block dimensions (typically 90m wide by up to 150m long) for redevelopment, as they can accommodate a diverse range of built forms and uses. The city centre is orientated to the north, allowing workers, shoppers and visitors to break out into the sun at its coastal edge.
New Plymouth’s relative geographic isolation can be considered a strength with limited retail leakage out to neighbouring regions, and newcomers attracted by the positive aspects of urban living without some of the perceived negative aspects of larger cities. At the same time, New Plymouth remains a relatively affordable place to live and establish a business, both of which are positive for city centre development.
The city centre punches above its weight when it comes to galleries and museums, public art, and its events calendar which drives a vibrant creative scene – an attractive attribute for those seeking a more artisan lifestyle.
The Proposed District Plan 2019 introduces policies aimed at reviving retail and commercial development within the city centre core. New rules permit increased building heights (from 14m to 22m in places). These measures, along with a drive for quality design will help consolidate activities in the city centre, improve the viability/attractiveness of development and city centre living and enhance the built environment.
Higher density residential development (apartments and town houses) across the city centre is essential to creating an immediate residential catchment that will help sustain business activity and energise the core. Market insights suggest a growing market appetite for city centre living. However, the relatively limited supply of housing options in the city centre, compounded by an abundance of relatively affordable housing across New Plymouth suburbs, is dampening demand.
The green space deficit in parts of the city centre is somewhat offset by the significant green assets just beyond its boundary, not least Pukekura Park, a significant district park and active recreation destination. There is an opportunity to leverage off this amenity by improving connections that enable the city centre and Pukekura Park to work in a complementary way for visitors and residents.
The Huatoki, Mangaotuku and the coast are logical opportunities for greening the city, along with the road reserve (via street trees and māra/gardens). The use of native plant species where possible should prevail.
New Plymouth has an economic legacy in oil and gas with associated environmental impacts however this negative can be turned into a positive if the accumulated energy know-how can be channelled into transitioning to a low-carbon region. There is an opportunity for this to be the forefront of the city centre’s future as a green-energy economic hub and innovation test bed.
The city centre stretches in an east-west direction and is over-extended spatially and economically. This spread of people at low densities over a large area dilutes the city centre’s identity and overall vitality.
The city centre is encircled by State Highways 44 and 45 – a heavy road network that severs the city from residential communities to the south, and more acutely from the coast to the north. The one-way system of State Highway 45 compounds this and its lack of ‘friction’ promotes higher vehicle speeds. Walkability of the city centre is therefore significantly compromised.
Public space plays an important role in the vibrancy of public life and thereby the overall appeal of a city as a place to live, work and play. Availability of green public open spaces and civic event spaces is a mixed bag (particularly in the eastern city centre).
So called bricks-and-mortar retail is facing monumental change, amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic, with town and city centres all over the world under immense strain. The growth of online shopping and the development of out-of-town large format retail precincts mean that retail can no longer be solely relied on to drive city centre vitality. New Plymouth city centre’s retail needs to evolve with greater focus on experience-based independent stores that can cumulatively act as a destination drawcard.
The city centre lacks the level of modern standard commercial office space considered necessary to attract, grow and retain businesses. Until recently, there have also been no significant institutions or attractions of scale that act as an anchor that would generate strong levels of activity and footfall throughout the year and support a residential apartment market. In recent times, the Len Lye Centre has become a cultural attraction of national significance and Ara Ake (the National New Energy Development Centre) and WITT have the potential to become institutional anchors.
Visitor destinations are disproportionately concentrated in the west end of the city centre and are nonetheless scattered. This discourages people from exploring the city centre and its other destinations. As a destination, the city centre lacks depth and coherence, and as a result fails to hold visitors for extended periods. The Huatoki Stream, which should be one of the greatest destination assets, is itself fragmented with much of the stream not fully day-lighted.
Despite a reasonably significant population within the city centre (1,100 residents or 1.35% of the total New Plymouth population in the centre and 1,800 within its walking catchment), residents tend to locate in the city fringe area. Although evening hospitality is performing well, the benefits of a resident population right in the city centre core have not yet been realised. Capacity studies suggest a four-fold increase is possible.
The city centre’s streets have enormous potential, but there is inconsistent quality in the public realm and the buildings fronting these streets, along with a lack of visible expression of local and cultural identity. If the city centre is to be easy to visit and convenient for all of the community, the city needs to incorporate universal design features to help improve access for as many as possible to public facilities, car parking, and toilets.
Commercial and retail activity has been bleeding from the city centre to its fringe, and of greater concern, to other parts of the city. Stemming this flow requires a commitment to improving amenity and enlivening the city centre, supported by the appropriate planning and policy levers. The Proposed District Plan introduces a centres- based approach’ to retail, which should assist with preventing future commercial and retail retreat. Accessibility to city centre employment needs to be safeguarded with a particular focus on improving public transport options and active modes of travel.
Historically the city centre has been prone to flooding (now largely mitigated). Stormwater run-off and discharge to the sea could continue to be an issue that future public realm projects could help address. There are some potential earthquake prone buildings and the costs to meet strengthening requirements may impact the viability of restoration. Tsunami and volcanic eruptions are also natural hazard risks.
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Page last updated: 11:59AM Tue 16 November 2021