10 minutes north of Tauranga, left into Te Puna Quarry Park Road off the Tauranga West Road (SH2). The Western Bay of Plenty district Resident’s Guide 2014 says: – “The park is a disused quarry…covering 32 hectares..this park is one of the most popular walks in the Western Bay of Plenty… created by volunteers, the Te Puna Quarry Park Society. It is a myriad of walking tracks, waterways, native and exotic gardens, garden art and restful picnic areas. From the higher points there are stunning coastal views, extending from the Coromandel ranges to the eastern Bay.” The tracks are shoe standard and there are numerous options both in terms of terrain and time.
It’s one of those autumn days that wants to force you into rural property maintenance. Instead I drag on the sports shoes and drive five minutes “up the road” to the Te Puna Quarry Park. From this way there is a right turning bay off the ever busy SH2. There’s a large carpark and it’s almost full. There are all sorts of people sitting at the picnic tables and on the grassed areas there’s a big group having what looks like an extended family day out. There’s a grandpa playing football with a little boy. There’s a very big signboard with the layout of the park and straight forward notices about your responsibilities if you have a dog with you.
The park is everything the Resident’s Guide promises and clearly meets the diverse community needs for walking, outdoor art, gardens and scenery. Since I first came here a great deal of work and development has been undertaken and the garden areas expanded – all done by volunteers. Garden areas are edged with the quarry stone. There are formed paths and regular seating. I start upwards past the Rotary watergarden. In slow and careful tones a local is explaining to her three apparently overseas guests the work of Rotary in the community. The space of the succulent garden allows often residentally cowed plants to grow and display as the sculptures they are. Children run towards me and an all terrain stroller bounces past as I head higher all the time walking past edged and well maintained gardens.
You will want to reach out and touch the memorial to Brian – Brian’s Wall – as it undulates along the very edge of the quarry slope. I look over Te Puna with its shaved shelter belts puntucated by the autumn changing tree colours. I stand and look again at the large mosaic and admire the newly planted area which revels in its garden decorator perfection. Past a small landslide which confirms exactly who is in charge of this garden park. I’m then walking down a real New Zealand bush path, through native plants, under and over tree branches and then despite the height sub-tropicals gleam and there is a hugely laden olive tree. In the distance is the irregular sound of a temple gong The gong is a metal pipe sculpture which I also stop, push and enjoy. Further down four children and a father are using the Musical Garden created by the Te Puna Community Kindergarten and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. The father is carrying a very tiny person around the “instruments” and small as they are they’re banging away with gusto. Through the azaleas into the herb garden waiting for it’s autumn trim. Herbs spilling everywhere and swan plants home to fat monarch caterpillars and chyrsallis.
All through the gardens and walking areas there is art – from the mosaiced sunflowers and teaparty right through to contemporary outdoor art. You’d have to be particularly difficult not find something you liked. The wide range of art reflects the wide range of people using this park. A small wooden bridge adorned with walking shoes leads into an outdoor theatre space. A Dad and a very little boy are climbing along the big rusted stone excavator and Mum and a tiny baby are looking inside the cab.
I’m back in the carpark. Titoki, New Zealand oak, and liquid amber are planted alternately in the median strip and that says it all about the combination of plantings in the park. The newly built TECT supported cabana, kitchen and toilet block epitomises the forward thinking and moving forces behind the park. It’s years of work and effort by all sorts of community people and walking through it is something everyone in Tauranga and the region should do more than once and preferrably more than once a year!