Mana whenua were joined by Mayor Nobby Clark, Councillors, Council staff, contractors, retailers and guests for a whakawātea and blessing on Friday 14 April to settle the streets and mark the end of over two years of work.
Invercargill City Council started work in 2021 to upgrade Esk and Don streets.
Extensive repair and replacement of underground infrastructure was undertaken, before the street was filled, the carriageway sealed and the entire area, including footpaths, paved. Elements such as play pieces, outdoor seating and art were fabricated and installed all while the Invercargill Central mall and Langlands Hotel were also being built.
Mana whenua and Waihōpai Runaka deputy chair Joe Wakefield led a walking whakawātea around the Esk, Dee, Don and Kelvin block to undertake a karakia blessing of the space, while discussing the cultural elements and stories behind the artwork that had been added to the street.
Council mana whenua representative Evelyn Cook said swampy Kōreti (the Ōreti River and estuary) and its past proximity to the inner city is recalled in etchings that feature weka and pūkeko footprints.
“Cast mahika kai creatures appear where they are least expected, including pāua, kina and tuna. They join the cast weka, gifted to the city by retired businessman Cliff Broad, which has been reinstated on Esk St once more.
“Kāhui rama light posts dot both streets representing the diverse community of Waihōpai over time, while rain gardens both cleanse and soothe the street and the people using it.”
Invercargill City Council Chief Executive Michael Day said after years of planning and years of negotiation and consultation and years of work, Esk and Don streets were being handed back to the community.
The ceremony marks the end of official work on this stage of the City Streets Upgrade, Day said.
“There’s a real sense of a job well done, and now it’s time for us to learn to work and play on our beautiful streets,” he said.
Speakers also included Mayor Clark, City Centre Governance Group chair John Green, and Invercargill Central Ltd Scott O’Donnell.
The Mayor thanked retailers and the community for their patience.
“The whole community has watched this street come to life and I have had a lot of feedback from people about how good it actually looks,” Clark said.
Day also thanked affected retailers and businesses for their patience.
“Along with our neighbours at Invercargill Central, HWR Tower, and the Langlands, our teams and contractors have faced lockdowns, supply chain issues, possible contamination, and even the discovery of archeological materials.
“But we knew there would come a day when we would stand on our street and look at what has been achieved. And today is that day.”
The street would be open to one-way, 10kmh traffic from 8am on Monday, Day said.