Ideas flow at community-led consultation on growth

The Warkworth Town Hall provided the perfect venue for two local groups to consult on how to plan for Warkworth’s growth and still retain the town’s integrity.

Should the main street of Warkworth be made into a pedestrian mall? Would it be appropriate to build high rise residential and retail along the river front? Should a cinema be built at the old Cement Works?
These are just a few of the suggestions and issues discussed at a public information day held in the Warkworth Town Hall on Sunday July 9. The event was jointly organised by a group of volunteer professionals working on a Spatial Plan for Warkworth and another group of mostly volunteers working on CBD revitalisation and riverbank improvements.

Despite the Sunday afternoon time slot and wet weather, a constant flow of people visited the hall.

Organisers say they were happy with the turnout, although there are still sectors of the community, such as youth and ethnic residents, who are under-represented in these discussions.

“It was great to see a few young families getting involved in the conversation, but we definitely need to see and hear more from them, as well as anyone new to town,” Spatial Plan communications coordinator Rachel Callender says.

“A few people joked that we ‘should build a wall’ and stop growth, but we need to approach it more positively and less like President Trump!

“Even if we weren’t part of Auckland Council, given our proximity to New Zealand’s largest city and our stunning location, we would inevitably attract an increasing number of residents – let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to live here? Growth is going to happen no matter what.”

The range of issues raised by the public was long and varied, from better recycling and community garden options to more public art and outdoor activity options in the town basin, such as rowing. There were people who wanted to keep Warkworth “quirky”, while others were concerned about the town’s heritage and the need for diverse commercial projects.

While the Spatial Plan group presented comprehensive information and draft maps on how new areas of urban growth might fit with the existing town, the CBD revitalisation group took a retrospective look at information from nine of the most recent planning documents on Warkworth.

They asked members of the public to revisit the outcomes of these plans to see if they were still relevant and which ones should be given priority.

Coordinator Cissy Rock says the idea is to find common themes so some concrete projects can be identified.

“Within the next month, we hope to be able to present some long-term, medium-term and short-term projects which can be achieved through a Council-community partnership,” she says. “People are sick of a lot of talking happening, but nothing coming out of it. We want to deliver some cool little projects and then move forward from there.”  

Rachel says one of the interesting discussions on Sunday was about pedestrianising the town centre and riverbank.

While walkability and bike-ability were seen as desirable outcomes, the question was raised, ‘If you remove cars, how will elderly people get around town?’ Some people felt there was a need for more parking, not less.

“I know that towns and cities overseas have achieved amazing results when they have centred their focus on people rather than vehicles – someone, somewhere must have the answers – we just need to be innovative and think progressively.”

There was also discussion about the roading network and what density actually means, and how the plan can incorporate the recently-adopted Greenways Plan.

Have your say

The volunteers who have been working on the Spatial Plan for nearly a year are urging residents to submit their ideas, views and thoughts on the proposals by August 6. The discussion document and maps, plus feedback form, can be viewed at warkworthgrowth.nz. Speakers are also available to address local groups. Enquiries can be made to wwspatial@gmail.com. Hard copies of the consultation document are also available from the Mahurangi Matters office in Neville Street.


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