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New lodge a focal point for visitors to Pukeiti Gardens

Tom O'Leary Oct 10
New lodge a focal point for visitors to Pukeiti Gardens
In a joint project with the Pukeiti Rhododendron Trust the Taranaki Regional Council has invested $700,000 into the new visitor Lodge on the 360ha property.

Taranaki Regional Council’s gardens manager Greg Rine, says the building of the new Lodge at New Plymouth’s famous Pukeiti Gardens and Rainforest, has fulfilled another significant step in creating a world-class facility for the local community and visitors from afar to experience.

In a joint project with the Pukeiti Rhododendron Trust the Regional Council has invested $700,000 into the new visitor Lodge which replaces an original building on the 360 hectare property on Carrington Road.

Pukeiti Gardens came into Council ownership and management in 2010 and in the past four years substantial upgrading of tracks, the building of the Rainforest Centre, aerial walkways and improvement in playground areas, is seeing the gardens not only restored to their former glory but enhanced in ways that will bring lasting benefits for visitors.

“The Lodge was the last major facilities project and remains the base for members of the Pukeiti Rhododendron Trust to meet as well as a place for the general public to learn about the cultural history of the Garden,” says Greg.

Built by Livingstone Building NZ the 353sqm lodge will become a focal point for visitors to the world-famous gardens and provide opportunities to relax after a walk. Come Spring the public area will house an art exhibition based on Pukeiti’s rhododendrons.

“Once we made the commitment to substantially improve the gardens and develop trails, opening them up more as a community resource in the future, we haven’t looked back. We are very keen to see the Lodge utilised for private events as well.”

Designed by Shaun Murphy of BOON Ltd Architects the Lodge is reminiscent of the Californian Bungalow style. Council’s brief was to replicate the look and feel of the original building as much as possible.

“As the Rhododendron Trust’s base we had to make sure it was useful for them and carried a lot of heritage values of the old building. We received a number of proposals and settled on this design because it fulfilled these criteria”.

Work began on the project in November 2017 and it is due to be opened spring 2018. Timber from the original Lodge has also been recycled into the new building, featuring matai flooring.

Greg says it has been a pleasure working with Shaun, who project managed the build. Council garden staff will landscape the area around the lodge. Looking ahead there are exciting developments for the area in the Council’s Long Term Plan.

Once landscaping of the Lodge and the garden’s Rainforest Centre have been completed a network of hiking and cycling trails and construction of a hut, targeted for families with young children will be developed.

“We have had really positive feedback from the community on what has so far been achieved in the gardens. We have very much tried to target families using the new facilities and associated activities.”

One of the key drivers in the garden’s significant development is to improve lifestyles and health outcomes for the community. A fitness trail will also be constructed.

“We see the recreational aspect of visiting the gardens and rainforest as central with the benefit of visitors being able to also enjoy world-class gardens.”

Taranaki Regional Council is providing New Plymouth District Council with funding toward the development of the hiking and biking trails while the District Council will be responsible for ongoing maintenance.

These developments will link Pukeiti to the Kaitake Trail segment of the Taranaki Crossing, a mountain to surf attraction in Taranaki Regional Council’s regional development strategy.

The 12km walking and mountain biking trail will follow old logging tracks in the Pukeiti rainforest and along a paper road towards Oakura, west of New Plymouth.

A recent development was the launch of ‘Taranaki Taku Turanga – Our Place, Towards a Predator-Free Taranaki’ which includes the Pukeiti Rainforest and adjacent Kaitake Ranges.

This Taranaki Regional Council initiative to make Taranaki Predator Free was launched by the Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage at Pukeiti in May.

Visitor numbers to the gardens have soared, leaping to 80,000 and Greg says with the next phase of development linking the gardens to the Kaitake Trail about to get underway these numbers will only increase.

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