The Tauranga Heritage Walk, an approximate 3km stroll, takes in many of the more important historical features of the city, including the Elms Mission Station.
Set up in 2012, the some two dozen information panels along the trail were each coloured and marked by the ‘i’ symbol. A purple plinth on The Strand states ‘If you were standing at this spot 150 years ago you would have sand between your toes and water lapping around your ankles.’
Maori knew this general area between the two headlands as Okahukura. European arrivals referred to it simply as ‘the beach’. Behind the tide there was a series of sea cliffs and areas of low swampy land.
In the 1870s the waterfront area was expanding rapidly but nature was too close for comfort. Water would flow into seaside shops with every easterly gale and the place had an uncivilised, rough edge that the town authorities were keen to rectify. The sea cliffs were cut down and the fill used to build up the foreshore behind a wooden breast work.
About 1902 the Edward VII Esplanade was built and the wooden wall was replaced by concrete. This too was relegated to history in 1922-1923 when more reclamation was needed to allow the railway lines to run to the waterfront. At the purple plinth, you are now standing above the old 1902 sea wall.
The walk, which was set up in 2012, begins at the i-Site on Willow Street in Tauranga’s CBD. Heading northwards on Willow Street, the first heritage site is the Old Post Office with its classical Edwardian architecture. Opposite at Aspen Park, a venerable 40m-high aspen tree, actually a cottonwood poplar planted in 1864, used to grow there. It is now gone.
Turning down McLean Street, the walk continues on to the Te Awanui Waka carved by Tuti Tukaokao in 1973.
Opposite is No 1 The Strand, the original Bonded Store built in 1883 that now serves as newspaper office for Sun Media by day and a function venue in the evenings.
A short, steep path leads up into the Monmouth Redoubt, a military stronghold in the unrest of the 1860s. From here, it was possible for soldiers to see to Gate Pa and along to the Durham redoubt. The redoubt was established on top of the Taumatakahawai Pa site.
The Monmouth Redoubt Historic Reserve has been the focus of a conservation planning workshop held with local stakeholders. Facilitated by Lynda Walter and Karen Greig from InSitu Heritage, the consultation has included surrounding residents, Police, Kiwirail, The Elms, Tauranga Historic Society, Heritage NZ, and Tauranga City Council staff.\
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss any issues surrounding the cultural and historical significance of the reserve, which extends from the walkway opposite the offices of Sun Media at No 1 The Strand to the toilet block next to the Tropical House, an area of about 5000sqm. It has the railway line, Cliff Road and Robbins Park on its boundaries.
A drop-in session was also held at the BOP Vintage Car Club Hall on Cliff Road so that people who visit the redoubt could express any issues or concerns.
Tauranga City Council commissioned the consultants to help prepare a conservation plan for the reserve, which will guide how council manages and develops this unique heritage place, including trees, vegetation, ditches, banks and retaining walls.
It will also take into account how people use and access the site.
“We’re also keen to hear about any stories or connections people may have to the site,” says Tauranga City Council parks asset coordinator Christine Wildhaber.
Next door to the Monmouth Redoubt Historic Reserve is the tropical plant display house, which is exceptional, as are the rose gardens of Robbins Park.
The short walk along Cliff Road brings you to Mission Street and the jewel in the crown of this Heritage Walk, The Elms Mission Station.
Here you can follow the story of early life in Tauranga and get an insight into a home that was occupied by the same family for more than 150 years. The peaceful gardens is an excellent venue for a picnic.
Cross the Marsh Street bridge over the railway and you’ll find your way to the Mission Cemetery. There are several alternative paths in this area but make certain that you continue down to the Anchor Stone.
Here, there are carved posts located at the end of Dive Crescent, below the harbour bridge flyover.
Each carved pou represents one of the navigators who sailed waka to Aotearoa from Polynesia around 1350AD. Local carvers paid tribute to the knowledge and skill required to bring people here on those long voyages through rough seas to a new land and new beginnings. The toka, or anchor stone represents ‘safe anchorage’ in Tauranga.
In the space where the roundabout at the bottom of the old bridge used to be now lies a courtyard symbolising the history of Tauranga.
Follow the railway along Dive Crescent to start your return to the CBD. This takes you past the Cargo Shed to Fisherman’s Wharf, across the railway line and into The Strand, where there are more pou, Herries Arch, and information plinths to read.