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Wharf Street dining precinct (Tauranga)

The problem

Wharf Street from The Strand to Willow Street was a typical, car-dominated street between the city centre and the waterfront. Tauranga Downtown Mainstreet (TDM), the local business organisation, and Wharf Street businesses wanted to increase the number of people visiting the area and cement its identity as a key connection to the waterfront. Tauranga City Council (TCC) supported this goal in principle, as it aligns with the Tauranga City Centre Spatial Framework, which envisions the area with share people spaces, a greater pedestrian focus, and more outdoor seating opportunities for dining and relaxing.

How the project responded

TDM and Wharf Street businesses initiated a 12-month trial to convert Wharf Street into an outdoor dining precinct, funded by business and property owners, TDM, and corporate sponsors, together with contributions from TCC. All outdoor furniture was made from railway sleepers from the old Matapihi Bridge, which were gifted to TCC for this purpose. The placemaking treatments were:

  • planter boxes
  • outdoor tables and seating
  • signage
  • ambient lighting using lanterns.

These were used to:

  • narrow the street
  • remove parking
  • give the street a shared space feel
  • create spaces for outdoor eating and lingering.

Regular meetings were held to keep Wharf Street businesses and property owners up to date, with other city centre businesses informed through weekly newsletters. A six-week launch programme involving activities, performances, an outdoor movie night, street food, and live DJs and bands was scheduled to demonstrate to the public how the street could be used as a pedestrian-friendly zone.

New outdoor dining spaces along Wharf Street

New outdoor dining spaces along Wharf Street. Credit: Tauranga City Council.

Public events during the launch

Public events during the launch. Credit: Tauranga City Council.

What was learned

The project was considered successful by local businesses and TCC, with several changes observed:

  • pedestrian numbers increased
  • vehicle speeds decreased
  • businesses reported more activity
  • use of space in front of businesses increased
  • more hospitality businesses have opened.

As a result, the trial was extended, and in 2018, a permanent upgrade to the street was approved.

Issues identified included:

  • maintenance of the street furniture over the extended trial period, with some deterioration drawing criticism. In some cases, businesses replaced street furniture themselves.
  • continued parking on Wharf Street, particularly after paid parking zone hours. More formal steps had to be taken to prevent this.