A project to increase safety at a notorious Hawke’s Bay intersection has incorporated Māori design principles, providing a community and visitor connection to rare native wildlife and a rich history.

The SH2 Watchman’s Road intersection in Napier was once one of the country’s highest risk intersections, but this has changed with a transformational project jointly funded by the New Zealand Transport Agency, Hawke’s Bay Airport and Napier City Council.

The project involved the construction of a roundabout at the intersection, the widening and strengthening of Watchman Road and the construction of a new road from Hawke’s Bay Airport to link to Watchman Road.

Crucial to success was ensuring minimal impact to the surrounding Ahuriri Estuary and Westshore Wildlife Reserve, a wetland of national and ecological significance.
Over 70 species of bird have been sighted in the area, including threatened species like the kuaka (godwit), royal spoonbill, Australasian bittern, New Zealand dabchick, banded dotterel and black-billed gull. It’s also an important habitat for tuna (eels), ika (fish) and some shellfish.

The project integrates Māori history, culture, values, and mahi toi (art) within the design and construction – including the stormwater solutions – with Iwi input from Mana Ahuriri Trust and Ngāti Kahungunu.

It was a great opportunity to work on such a visible but previously unrecognised entrance to the city in a location with so much significance to local Māori, and the community as a whole. To be able to weave together a design response to Māori, the wider community and to the natural environment and to hear such positive feedback from so many people has been very rewarding.Stefan Steyn, Landscape Architect

A collaborative effort between lead WSP Opus designers Stefan Steyn and Nick Aiken, working with renowned local Māori artist Jacob Scott (Ngāti Kahungunu), introduced innovative Koru patterns in the gabion baskets and appreciation for kuaka has been embedded within the project. From the air, the shape of a kuaka becomes visible; the roundabout is the eye of the bird and the traffic island to the north-east forms the beak, wings extend across the adjacent smaller stormwater treatment ponds and boardwalks.

Stunning artwork was added in the form of 150 godwits clustered on poles in six locations, five large Pou structures referencing local ancestors and mythology and 100 small iron sculptures representing the marae of Ngāti Kahungunu.

Nick Aiken says the project provided an opportunity to honour the ecology, history and aspirations of the people of Te-Matau-a Māui, the region known today as Hawke’s Bay.
Nick and Stefan wanted the pou artwork to represent the people of the place, referencing the five historic pā sites once located there. The existing lagoon is a tiny fraction of what was there pre-earthquake when the lagoon had five islands in it and yacht races used to happen.

New stormwater solutions, including constructed wetlands and swales, receive stormwater runoff from the adjacent impervious roads and aid in removing contaminants and pollutants prior to discharging into the Ahuriri lagoon.

The location presented the team with a number of challenges – in particular the highly saline water content of the two disconnected wetlands and seasonably variable water levels. Planted swales have been used to intercept stormwater from the new causeway however plants had to be carefully selected for their ability to thrive in a harsh saline environment.