A walk-through Taranaki's Pukeiti garden upgrade
A major redevelopment has taken place at Taranaki's Pukeiti Gardens. Reporter BRITTANY BAKER took a stroll to see the changes for herself.
The somewhat treacherous trip up Carrington Rd and towards Mt Taranaki is immediately forgiven when reaching the entrance to Pukeiti Gardens.
I had been to the park twice before - once to witness the release of a rehabilitated falcon and more recently for a sunny Saturday walk - and it was incredibly inspiring to see the vast changes that had taken place since.
The former black and white building that stood by the entrance has been replaced by a new development called the Rainforest Centre.
Birds playfully flitted about the open glass-paned building, which is framed with wooden Māori carvings and introduced by four large posts bearing "Pukeiti" signs, as if the place were proud to announce its presence to visitors.
To be honest I know very little, in fact nothing, about flowers and fauna but I do enjoy their varying shapes and colours.
When I entered through the sunlit entrance of Pukeiti and stood in front of a metre-high map, I expected to be "wowed".
Past the propped open doors, an "elevated" experience invites visitors along a covered aerial walkway, which snakes behind the main centre and makes its way to a treetop lookout above the Pukeiti Stream.
The walk begins with a loose "S" shaped bridge that links to a deck attached to the recently-opened Founders Cafe, with 40 outdoor seats and a view of the main lawn and the ocean peeking over the horizon.
The raised walk continued into the Vireya Walk. With each step, steel clinked beneath my weight. Below, a paved path for a ground-level view of the vireyas.
The lower path used to lead to outdoor toilets, since replaced by newer facilities.
The aerial walkway continues to a lookout that comes face-to-face with a proudly standing black maire - a native New Zealand tree that can grow up to 20 metres high - and passes the Bublitz Education Centre, which has four small aquariums with live kōura (crayfish) and banded kōkopu (whitebait species) framed within the wooden exterior.
And directly across stands the Kōkopu House - a treehouse elevated above a pond that currently sits empty, apart from some oversized rocks and water.
Just 50 metres further is the Pukeiti Stream lookout, with steps leading to a 55m-long dirt path to the waterwheel.
The entire walk is short but pleasant and I can imagine its popularity soaring with warmer weather and final touches complete.
But the revamp has spruced up more than the centre, and I was all too curious about the "secret garden".
Hidden in a spot not far past the park's demolished lodge is the "mysterious" Misty Knoll - a short path springing off the Rhododendron Stroll.
The uneven dirt trail and freshly planted, yet to bloom, azalea 'fiery boy' flowers made it appear the area was still under development.
But as I continued, the descending trail spiralled in and under itself and a tunnel appeared before me.
The underground passage lead to a grassy bowl and offered a lookout with benches.
"Wow," I thought.
And there, my expectations were met.
While the mulch is still overwhelmingly visible and a layer of grass is still needed, the "secret garden" will definitely go over well with the young ones.
And though the redevelopment has plenty more work to be done, the effort put in by Taranaki Regional Council, Taranaki Iwi and Pukeiti Rhododendron Trust is quite evident.
Now, if we can just tend to those risky roads...