Waiaroha – Heretaunga Water Discovery Centre by

2024 Infrastructure Projects / New Zealand / Built in 2023 /

Ko te Amorangi ki mua ko te hāpai ō ki muri
Te tūturutanga mahi pono o te Māori mana motuhake.

In 2016, the drinking water in Havelock North, New Zealand became contaminated with Campylobacter. The event contributed to the death of five people and several thousand became ill.

The community lost trust in the water infrastructure, and questioned systems could be improved to ensure the ongoing health and wellbeing of everyone.

This project is a response to our community’s request to love and respect our drinking water.

Kōrero (Introduction)
In 2019 Wayfinder was invited to a meeting with Hastings District Council’s water infrastructure engineers to discuss a new water plant that was required in response to the contamination event. It would require a steel water tank containing 8,000m3 of drinking water (32m diameter, 10m tall), and a windowless treatment plant (30m x 16m, 8m tall). It was to be located adjacent to existing water infrastructure in the centre of the CBD.

Due to the prominence of the site within the city, our role was to determine how to mitigate the facility by planting some trees around it.

But, we asked a defining question: What if, instead of screening the infrastructure, we celebrated it?

Whakapapa (Community)

From the outset we sought to collaborate with Mana Whenua (indigenous elders). Our initial hui (meeting) went for 4 hours, and we said 20 words. We were told that Council was not trusted to look after water due to many years of neglect, and Mana Whenua would not get involved. But we went back to meet often. We listened and learned, and Ngati Kahungunu (local iwi or tribe) began to embrace the project. They became a core part of our team, working out how to weave cultural value into the engineering & blessing the opening with over 200 in attendance.

An overall narrative emerged – ki uta ki tai (the mountains to the sea). At face value a simple concept but entailing the creation of a fully immersive experience across all aspects of the water cycle. This story gave us our site layout.

Toitū (Sustainability)

The name Waiaroha was gifted by Ngāti Kahungunu. It has a deep meaning to iwi which is embedded in the karakia (blessing) at the opening of this text. We knew the concept of Waiaroha would manifest in two ways, first in the use of sustainable design principles, but second as a way of thinking. Waiaroha is about focussing on future generations, a concept Council has adopted for broader infrastructure development because of this project, and a concept now embedded in our design practice.
Sustainable features in the project include: locally sourced sustainable timber, solar panels, LED lighting, recycled rain water & rain gardens – all the usual!

Waiaroha (the Project)

We took full control of the site layout. We rearranged the site elements (2 tanks rather than 1). All structures were modelled to minimise effects on neighbours and maximise storytelling space. We made allowances for tank settlement (up to 130mm), and site ground levels were calculated precisely (the main water feature has a 1:1,000 fall over 50m).

Most importantly, we installed a huge glass window on the WTP so that everyone could see in.
We totally freaked out the engineers, but they bought our vision & agreed to be led by us.
We managed the project through many political pressures (including an election), leaked misinformation (which nearly derailed us), and Cyclone Gabrielle.

Taipitopito (Detail)

The key features are:
·       Existing trees retained to provide verticality & screening, but all new planting is native & follows mountains to sea theme, changing through the site.
·       A taonga (sacred stone) with flowing water to resemble a mountain spring.
·       A misting machine to experience atmospheric water.
·       Timber boardwalks.
·       A walkable river water feature resembling the four major rivers of our region.
·       A pond with permeable concrete reflecting how mountain water feeds an underground aquifer.
·       An ātea (meeting) space that is flat an open like the surrounding plains.
·       Rain clouds that can be hand pumped to create rain.
·       Cultural carvings, etchings & architectural features embedded throughout reflecting cultural narratives.
·       A massive window on the WTP with interactive signage & videos, & no blinds.
·       A wave machine that creates gentle ripples that break near a shoreline.
·       Detailing to the tanks & buildings that embed.
All combined into a cohesive story with storyboards and interactive games.

Wakapaunga (Conclusion)

Waiaroha sets a new benchmark for how public entities consider infrastructure. This project has not only created a unique, enjoyable space, but it has also created a way of thinking.
When we were young, infrastructure was placed in concrete buildings invisible to the public. Our project had to start from this mindset. Imagine what the children of today can dream now that their starting point is full transparency.

We think this is what landscape architecture is all about.

Name of the project: Waiaroha – Heretaunga Water Discovery Centre (for pronunciation purposes only this is said “Why-arrow-ha” and “Hear-e-tong-a”)


Architecture offices involved in the design: Designgroup Stapleton Elliot, Stantec, Stitchbird

Location: 301 Hastings Street, Hastings, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand

Design year: 2019-2021

Year Completed: 2023


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