Waihi Town Centre: a look back

Waihi Town Centre: a look back Waihi Town Centre: a look back

Waihi, a small town on the North Island's Coromandel Peninsula, is especially notable for its history as a gold mining town and this is reflected in the streetscape.

In 2001, Hauraki District Council employed Boffa Miskell as design consultants for a streetscape enhancement project in Waihi on the Coromandel Peninsula.

Rachel de Lambert was the project manager, and at the time she said that one of the primary influences was : “to ‘accentuate the positive’ about the town’s past and its particular asset — gold. This approach found favour with a large sector of the community, and led to a strongly local streetscape.”

During the town centre upgrade, street lights on Seddon Street were returned to the centre of the road.

Originally just “Main Street”, the street honours Richard J. Seddon who became Prime Minister in 1893. Seddon was born in Lancashire, England; and arrived in New Zealand in 1866 to join an uncle in the West Coast goldfields. He took a particular interest in Waihi, which he visited just after the turn of the century when it was the fastest growing town in New Zealand and the fourth largest outside the main centres. The street was re-named following Seddon’s sudden death at sea, while returning from a trip to Australia in June 1906.

The Seddon Memorial was returned to its original location on an important intersection and a fully-scaled (18 metre) mine shaft head structure, or ‘poppet head’, was placed on the axis of Seddon and Gilmour streets.

Two roundabouts also reference Waihi’s mining history. They’re decorated with metal balls, which are used to crush the ore in the modern day extraction process.

Waihi is a popular destination for travellers, and the Motorhomes, Caravans and Destinations blog says, “…there is more to Waihi than the mining. Residents have made much of the town. Decorative lamps and colourful banners light the main street, bronze statues and murals depict the past. There are 21 eateries, the roundabouts are decorated with steel balls used in the ore-crushing process, and the lovely old buildings – built in Waihi’s heyday – are painted and restored.”

Waihi’s main street won the Town Centres of New Zealand Achievement Award in 2001 for physical improvement. The Waihi Town Centre project took a Silver in Urban Design at the 2004 NZILA Awards, and led to another notable streetscape upgrade project for Boffa Miskell as residents of nearby Paeroa wanted improvements to their town, which is also within Hauraki District.

And, proving that thoughful, place-based design improvements to small town centres are an enduring investment; Waihi was named New Zealand’s Most Beautiful Small Town, at the 2019 Keep New Zealand Beautiful (KNZB) annual awards.

Note: The photos used in this article were taken by photography enthusiast Helen Macky, who sent them to us in mid-August 2020. She wrote: “I took the photos as the sun was rising. I’m quite pleased with them. Please share them with Rachel de Lambert.”

 

For further information please contact Rachel de Lambert or Chris Bentley

27 August 2020