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Pukeiti Gardens set for all weathers

Pukeiti Gardens set for all weathers
Pukeiti’s new Rainforest Centre also holds the reception, hospitality, interpretation, and function areas.

On the slopes of Mt Taranaki is a world class garden facility at Pukeiti, where New Plymouth’s Street and Cook Construction has recently spent close to a year constructing a new Rainforest Centre, allowing visitors to enjoy the gardens regardless of the weather or the time of year.

Pukeiti’s redevelopment has seen the old gatehouse by the entrance revamped and extended to make the Rainforest Centre, which also holds Pukeiti’s reception, hospitality, interpretation, and function areas.

With panoramic views across the rainforest garden and coastline, the Rainforest Centre links to the previously completed vireya rhododendron covered walkway, which provides access to the world’s largest public display of vireya rhododendrons, and the aerial extension to the treetop lookout over Pukeiti’s famous waterwheel.

Working in a rainforest provided various opportunities for one of construction’s biggest challenges – the rain.

This was compounded by the narrow and twisty access up Carrington Road to the building site, while Street and Cook Construction worked their way around a live facility and frequent busloads of tourists.

“The rain was certainly the biggest challenge,” says Street and Cook Construction general manager John O’Mahoney.

“Even when we were inside. We had timber frames up and they were so damp the building inspector wouldn’t let us line it until the moisture content had been sufficiently reduced.”

The soggy clay rainforest ground conditions saw piles bored deep into the ground with steel cages. “They filled up with water as soon as they were put in,” John says. “We had to get the water out and the concrete in at the same time.”

The building’s unusual design with its ‘wow’ factor did provide Street and Cook Construction’s team of builders and subcontractors with a unique construction.

“We’ve used a variety of materials – structural steel, timber and glass – and bringing them together required quite intricate detailing,” John says.

“It’s not the sort of project we do every day. We used many different materials and we worked on three different levels of the building.”

Considering there was nothing straightforward about the project, Street and Cook Construction put one of its most experienced foremen on the job.

With 40 years of construction industry experience, he had the knowledge and ability required to deal with a different design.

He was also able to handle everything the elements threw at the team. John says there were a couple of milestone moments during the project.

With the former lodge being gutted prior to starting the Rainforest Centre, getting those structures torn down and the site prepared for the permanent works was a huge achievement.

Actually completing the Rainforest Centre completed in time for its opening on September 9 was another cause for celebration. It was a great flagship project for Street and Cook Construction, which has been heavily involved in tourism and hospitality projects for the past 35 years.

“This was a unique building but it’s the type of job we do, and a good example to show the quality of work we produce,” John says.

“There will be a lot of people going through the building, and we’re already getting some very positive feedback from it.”

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