An historic slice of Warkworth gets a much needed make over

By Ben Taylor

Warkworth’s Kowhai Park is a site steeped in history. A short streamside walk through native bush leads you to brickwork lime kilns built in the 1880s. Lime from them was used in the construction of Auckland’s earliest commercial buildings.

Originally known as Hall’s Bush, the reserve was renamed Kowhai Park Domain when it was officially opened by Lord Bledisloe in 1934. It was here that he planted a commemorative Rimu tree which still stands proud to this day. Since then the park has taken on many guises, including a period as the town’s holiday park.

Over time however, the site has become rundown. Situated next to what’s colloquially known as “New Zealand’s worst intersection” (State Highway One’s turnoff to popular Kowhai Coast destinations such as Matakana) it’s become used more as a car park and informal car sales yard than for rest and recreation.

A motor-home dump station for waste,  and a dated ablution block situated in the shady depths of the park became a beacon for antisocial behaviour. The unstructured and sprawling nature of the carpark saw vehicles parking over the roots of the mature Totara that are scattered through the site.

Auckland Council engaged Opus International Consultants Limited in 2015 to undertake a feasibility study exploring ways of making it more attractive, more desirable as a family friendly stopover. The council wanted to encourage visitors to the little-known lime kilns. But there was also a need to protect the Totara trees which are of significant ecological value.  Over the past year, Opus has taken the concept through subsequent design phases and overseen the construction works.

A feature signage wall now creates a gateway to the park. The use of brick within the material palette forms a connection to the heritage site that lies beyond. Visual appeal has been restored  by reducing and delineating the carpark footprint, creating more open space for informal recreation, whilst also protecting the bases of the Totara.

A new toilet facility and motor-home dump station have been brought closer to the park entrance as a crime prevention measure.  Car parks have been arranged so that cars no longer look out at the notorious intersection.  While the park’s already been officially opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony it’s not quite finished.  In the next twelve months  a suite of chunky bespoke furniture will be added. It’ll be made of recycled Totara with bright yellow detail in homage to the park’s name.



Kowhai Park

Auckland Council

Landscape Architecture: 
Opus International Consultants Ltd

Civil and Structural Engineering: 
Opus International Consultants Ltd

Project team: 
Terry Palethorpe, Ben Taylor, Russell Cooper, Phil Harford, Orson Waldock

Peers Brown Miller

Mason Contractors

Tumbleweed Coastal Plants