Bog standard block brightened up

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 19/12/2013
Nelson toilet strap
MARTIN DE RUYTER

Miranda Reihana is impressed by the new mirrors in the refurbished Buxton Square toilets.

Buxton Square toilets.
MARTIN DE RUYTER/FAIRFAX NZ
DASH OF COLOUR: The newly painted exterior of the refurbished Buxton Square toilets.

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The job of fixing Buxton Square toilet block is now done, and a snapshot of public opinion reveals it's a hit.

A multicoloured exterior in hues of pink, red, mauve, yellow and lime green are appealing to passersby, while the clean, bright and artfully enhanced interior are "hundreds of times better" than what was there before.

"They're 100 per cent better. I love the mosaics and murals, and they're lovely and clean," Miranda Reihana said.

Gary Tobin started his day Christmas shopping with a visit to the new loo. He said Nelson was a "vibrant summer town" which could be proud of its toilets.

"I don't think Nelson will become famous for its toilets, but it can be proud of them," Mr Tobin said.

The council initially engaged Australian public spaces designer David Engwicht to help with the project, aimed at encouraging community engagement through volunteer efforts to help renovate and decorate the building.

Councillor Kate Fulton led the volunteer effort, and while it attracted a level of support, council staff reclaimed the upgrade project last month, as hopes faded for getting the job done in time.

Ms Fulton conceded that it was "probably a bit ambitious" to tackle a project of its size as an experiment in community engagement.

She thanked the artists and members of the community who devoted many hours of time, but said next time she would tackle something smaller.

Over the past month, a team of Nelmac and council staff, plus volunteers and qualified builders have worked to get the toilet block ready for the thousands of people expected to visit Nelson over summer.

New toilets, including 24-hour access toilets, have been installed, along with handbasins and a wheelchair-friendly stall. The outside of the building is painted in bright colours to create a "rainbow archway".

The toilet block is also adorned with murals painted by local artists.

The council acknowledged last year that safety issues with the toilets were a particular concern, and stipulated that all work had to comply with building regulations and address crime prevention through environmental design criteria.

The council said the new block has been made safer by removing hiding spots between columns and putting in a new uni-sex toilet that opens straight on to the courtyard.

The council had already spent $40,000 on an architecturally designed proposal for the upgrade, when it decided earlier this year to look for an alternative approach in an effort to reduce costs, after assessing the earlier $330,000-plus option as too expensive.

The budget for the just-completed project rose to a total of $90,000 so contractors could be appointed, including an architect needed to draft changes needed to secure a building consent, council executive manager of network services Alec Louverdis said at a recent council meeting.

An official opening is planned in mid-January once the final finishing touches are completed.

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Nelmac is due to start its next toilet block upgrade beside the Cathedral in the new year.

- The Nelson Mail

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