Boardwalks through time…

…or: Why do dawn blessings have to happen so very early???

Last week, we got a short-notice-invite to the dawn blessing for the construction works on the Eric Armishaw Reserve boardwalk, in Point Chevalier. Living locally these days, I felt that despite being very much NOT a morning person, I had to go to this one (after already missing the dawn blessing for the much bigger Waterview Path some weeks ago, for which there had been even less advance warning).

Even a motorway can look enchanting with distance and the right light...
Even a motorway can look enchanting with distance and the right light…

So here I was, getting up at 5am to walk over to Point Chevalier from neighbouring Mt Albert. Because, well-organised as I was, I had left my bike at work the night before.

The walk was not too bad despite my stumbling tiredness, taking me some 30 minutes to get there. Ironically, it would have been only 20 minutes had the boardwalk already been open.

Sometime in 2016, you will be able to shortcut that route from Waterview or Mt Albert by taking the existing path through the lower levels of the new concrete forest soaring into the sky (the three, four levels of motorway ramps), and then walk or cycle onto the new path skirting the interchange towards the reserve.

More commonly though, the path will be used by local residents living on the streets branching off Pt Chevalier Road – because (even if not shown on the map below) it creates new cross-connections between various cul-de-sac streets that probably had been blocked off when the same motorway was first built many decades ago.

Route of the future path, with boardwalk at western end. Not shown: side road connections to southwestern Pt Chevalier streets.
Route of the future path, with boardwalk at western end. Not shown: side road connections to southwestern Pt Chevalier streets.

For those residents, it will be an appreciated short-cut to a well-loved reserve, which in summer can get quite full with kite surfers and families having a picnic. I wonder whether they will look at the motorway interchange and think about the orchards that used to thrive here before the motorway went through? Or the bush-clad hills before that?

Arriving at Eric Armishaw Reserve, I greeted the various Waterview Alliance team members, NZTA officials and local politicians – we’ve grown to know each other pretty well over the years. Enough apparently, to recognise each other even in the dark before dawn. All of us the usual suspects.

We were then greeted by representatives of Ngati Whatua Orakei, who explained the rituals to us, before walking with us to the north end of the future path for the blessing, karakia and a short waiata.

I feel it is a lot easier to “put some of your spirit into it” as we were asked, when you are starting a new walk and cycleway than when you are building yet another motorway.

So I put some of my spirit into the hope that in the future we’d be doing more of these kinds of projects without a roaring hum of more cars in the background as the starting impetus…

Walking towards the (flood)light...
Walking towards the (flood)light…

And how time turns – local board member Graeme Easte noted to me that back in 1994 he had almost convinced the community to build a path on pretty much the same alignment – but that it was stopped at the last moment due to concerns of residents about the privacy of the waterfront sections. I understand that partly for the same reasons, 20 years on, the boardwalk is further out across the tidal flats than it absolutely had to be.

And maybe time will turn again – local board member Margi Watson reminded us how, really, the big wish of the local communities had not been a pathway through, but a bridge over, the motorway interchange. But as we know, the Board of Inquiry agreed with the motorways agency that they didn’t have to remedy old severances, only balance out the new impacts. A “bridge too far” for now, Margi called it – but I’m keen to see it happen one day. Maybe when we build the Western Busway, we can have a blessing for a walk and cycleway bridge to the new bus station. Time will turn.

Looking south over the tidal flats along the boardwalk route.
Looking south over the tidal flats along the boardwalk route.

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