Demolition work to start at former Ravensdown site, making way for construction of retail complex

By Leighton Keith,

The transformation of an eyesore into a multi million-dollar shopping complex on the outskirts of New Plymouth has taken another step forward.

Tauranga-based developers Bluehaven Group signed a Memorandum of Understanding with mana whenua for the area, Ngāti Tawhirikura, in the city on Thursday and announced demolition and removal work at the 7.44 hectare former Ravensdown site would begin in November.

Auckland based Nikau Group will clear the asbestos-contaminated and rundown site on State Highway 3 at the northern entrance to New Plymouth, making way for construction of the commercial hub.

After purchasing the land in 2017, Bluehaven announced plans in 2018 to develop a complex at the site that included 30 specialty retail stores, a supermarket, a six-screen cinema, a hardware store, offices and a 75-room hotel.

But then nothing happened, leading to calls for the company to at least clean up the site, which is covered in weeds, overgrown trees and dilapidated buildings.

Bluehaven’s plans for the site were the subject of an independent hearing because it did not comply with a number of rules including building height and on-site parking.

In April the New Plymouth District Council granted resource consent for the complex.

In an emailed statement, Bluehaven chief executive Nathan York said the group had strong confidence in the long-term prospects of the region, despite recent setbacks due to Covid-19.

“We are committed to rid New Plymouth of a dilapidated site and develop a state-of-the-art commercial hub, a destination that will create jobs and enhance the region’s economy, and turn around what has become an eyesore on New Plymouth’s north-east entrance, into a proper entry statement befitting the city that brings so many economic benefits to Taranaki.”

As part of development, Bluehaven will restore the Aotere Pā, which sits at the entrance to the site.

Ngāti Tawhirikura chair Ngamata Skipper said the restoration was an exciting development, not only for the hapū but also the wider community.

“The re-established Aotere Pā will highlight the occupation of Ngāti Tāwhirikura and become a significant landmark within this site.

“It will be significant and a real key point.”

Ngāti Tawhirikura trustee Glen Skipper said it felt fitting the MOU was being signed in spring as it marked a renewal phase for both the site and the hapū.

Skipper said the significance reminded him of a karakia (prayer) which spoke about looking for tohu (markers) to signal when it was time to prepare the gardens and ended with the word koia (dig).

He said reestablishing the pa site would create a cultural focal point for their grandchildren and great grandchildren.

The Nikau Group was nationally recognised as a top demolition contractor and has previously completed deconstruction work at the Pātea Freezing Works and the Port Taranaki Power Station.

Nikau director John Paul Stil said clearing the site would be a big job.

“It would be the largest project in Taranaki in regard to the area, that we have done.”

While demolition and removal will start early in November and is expected to take eight months, a date for construction work has not been set.