Icon or eyesore on Cliff Road

Peter Leafe doesn’t want his neighborhood of 56 years spoiled by a museum. Photo: Bruce Barnard.

“Ridiculous projections.” Ted Petrie fires it out. He doesn’t hold back.

And he produces a well-notated Heart of the City document on the proposal for a museum on Cliff Road.

It ‘cautiously estimates’ 240,000 visitors a year by 2023 and 550,000 by 2053. Forty-five buses a day and 540 cars. That’s a lot of people and a lot of traffic encroaching on this leafy and historic inner city enclave.

“Where do they think all these people will come from?” asks Ted. “I’ll tell you from where. From the imaginations of the consultants who are paid to agree with their masters – whoever and whatever.”

Ted Lives in a gracious 104-year-old villa on Cliff Road amongst the purple-blue jacarandas – it’s a prime bit of inner-city dirt.

“The trees, the parks, and view on Cliff Road make it the place I want to live.”  So when Ted learned they might plonk a museum on the cliff-top open space of Robbins Park right across the road – “Horror!”

“The museum, which will only be for tourists, is of little interest to the locals who are paying for it.” He calls a spade a spade and a clifftop museum a white elephant.

Ted Petrie might be the loudest, most acerbic opponent of a museum on Cliff Road, but his voice is just one in a neighbourhood chorus of more than 50.

“No, it’s not nimby-ism,” insists Cliff Road resident Margaret. She prefers to be known only by her Christian name.

“This is about the disruption of a lifestyle. It’s about noise, 24/7 noise, it’s about loss of privacy, it’s about security, bright lights, and it’s about loss of precious greenspace.”

Margaret is one of the leading lights in the neighbourhood campaign for the museum to be built elsewhere – perhaps the CBD.

Step in to Margaret’s apartment several flights of stairs up the rather utilitarian Harbour Court building on Cliff Road and you step into one of the most breath-taking, expansive vistas of the city.

“It’s like being on holiday every day,” says Margaret. She watches the sun come up and she puts it to bed, and everything in between. Like Robbins Park about four or five storeys down.

“This is about loss of greenspace – it’s used by locals, families, visitors, tourists, exercise groups, dog owners. There’s a sense of community here, social interaction.”

She says when the jacarandas are in bloom, the tourist numbers blossom too. When the cruise liners berth, the trail leads to the rose gardens and the tropical display house.

The cliff top also provides some of the best rough sleeping in town. When The Weekend Sun wandered by mid-morning last week a group of homeless guys were soaking up the vistas, the sun, and a couple of boxes of Woodstock.

Surely the cliff top would be an ideal site for showcasing the city’s history? A nine metre high structure would impose itself on the skyline and become iconic. “You don’t go to a museum for the views,” says Margaret. “You go inside to see the exhibits.”

The Cliff Road neighbours are also anxious for what they believe to be a significant archaeological site. “Would we build over the Mission Cemetery? Just because there are no gravestones on Robbins Park, it doesn’t make the area any less sacred.”

It’s sacred for Peter Leafe. He’s another resident in Harbour Court. He was born just up the road. “When my dad was digging the garden with his rotary hoe, Māori artefacts would literally fly out the back. So the museum proposal worries me.”

Ted Petrie is a little cynical about the need for a museum. “The history of Tauranga is a massacre at the Mount, a massacre at Te Papa which is now Cliff Road – beaten and eaten – a defeat of colonial forces under General Cameron at Gate Pa, and a series of land grabs all across the Bay. Probably not a history we want to dwell on.”

And he suggests, for tourists, the real attraction for Māori culture is over the hill in Rotorua. “Powhiris, hakas, boiling mud, geysers – that’s what visitors want to see. A museum on Cliff Road? I am not sure.”

They insist it’s not a case of ‘anywhere but here’. The Cliff Road community believes a new museum complex would be better placed in the CBD. Ted says, “If they really want to bring Tauranga’s CBD to life, then the museum needs to go downtown – a facility integrated with the art gallery, Baycourt, the library and a ready catchment of people.”

One of the major concerns is the disruption to the genteel Cliff Road lifestyle.  Margaret says the venue wouldn’t just be a museum but an event venue. There’s talk of  15 profit centres – food and beverage sales, retail sales, overnight learning programmes, and venue – the thought being the more  successful and dynamic  the facility is, the less it would cost to run.

 “They are trying to put three pints into a one pint bottle,” says Ted. “The site is simply too small. And with 40 buses coming each day, locals wouldn’t get anywhere near the place. It’s parked out now.”

The residents all agree Cliff Road is seriously under-utilised. Weekdays it’s a carpark – before dawn downtown workers seeking free and cheap parking flood the place. At days end the tide goes out. There’s a gym, a petanque court, and some privileged elderly car enthusiasts enjoy the best clubrooms in town.

“When I see the trees disappearing and when I see Robbins park disappearing beneath carparks, things are very sad for Tauranga,” says Ted. “All very underwhelming really.”

The gentrified neighbourhood with it’s 119 residents has its own vision for Robbins Park – a pop up marae or wharenui, a heritage walking trail, guides telling the story, gardens, seating, historical re-enactments, active displays, school kapa haka groups, and weaving and carving displays.

“That’s what’s driving me” says Peter. “We want a slice of the tourist trade that’s headed over the Kaimai Ranges to Rotorua. Let’s make this really special, something culturally world class.”

In the meantime, there’s an opportunity to have your say. It’s a non-binding referendum on the museum proposal being held in conjunction with the council by-election.

It asks whether you support a museum in the council’s long term plan and whether you support the Cliff Road or Willow Street locations.

Residents should have received a voting pack in the post and voting is open until Tuesday, May 1 at noon. Margaret is urging people to vote.

 “We’re worried the result of a low vote might be misconstrued by the decision makers as a mandate to do whatever. So have your say - especially young voters.”


Just words

Posted on 01-05-2018 07:50 | By maildrop

"Progress", "the youth", etc,. All generic meaningless tosh. Some people are confusing the investment in essential infrastructure and facilities, with wasteful spending on non essential unviable white elephants. And if you’re a naysayer you are deemed tight, uncultured, outdated. Hahaha. Maybe the yaysayers are frivolous, snobs and inexperienced.


Posted on 30-04-2018 23:10 | By Centurion

I hear about many historical items in storage at great ongoing expense, but has Council ever provided a catalogue of what exactly is stored? I recall a pink dress(?) once worn by a Lady Mayoress (is that correct?) How historic is that? How many other ’historic’ items are no more than something that is some years out of fashion or simply out of date? Come on Council, inform the great un-washed just what this proposed white elephant will display for our wonderment and edification.

Ask not what this city can do for you Murray,

Posted on 30-04-2018 10:31 | By R. Bell

but, What you can do for this city. The residents of Cliff road have every right to object, but if their concern is truly about green space, then a compromise could be a single story, green roof. There are magnificent examples worldwide. It could even be an improvement on their current view.It could even be an attraction in itself. No one can hold back progress forever, not even by calling people corrupt with no supplied evidence.The alternative sites you mention will all disrupt peoples lives. It is the price we all have to pay at one time or another. Cliff road is no exception. Robin Bell.

Minority Dream

Posted on 29-04-2018 18:31 | By sambro

Do we need a museum ? not really. OK, we have all this stuff in storage which we will still have to have and pay for. Why don’t we just gift it all to another B.O.P museum (s). If we REALLY need a museum I vote historic village. Plenty of parking unlike Cliff road. Cliff road is a historic, relaxing and a beautiful area. Who wants lots of buses etc clogging that up. I live in Greerton and would not like a museum here. It’s all ready chaotic traffic wise here. Or how about a museum at "the Lakes" (the next little Tauranga). Buses would go straight down the highway to it. I’m sure the "Lakers" with all that land out there wouldn’t mind :D ...or would they ? INFRASTRUCTURE !!!

Who is scared of change? Who is sickened by corruption?

Posted on 28-04-2018 23:34 | By Murray.Guy

Sg1nz writes from the shadows, "Typical resistance to change and progress. The city will never move forward if it is controlled by people that are scared of change and want to live in the 70’s." Typical rhetoric from the corrupt in an effort to divert attention from the reality of their empty argument. Our city has numerous locations that tick many more boxes than a confined historic residential precinct and the site of a massacre, overlooking an unstable bank and railway with no provision for basic parking needs. With a couple of cruise ships in The Elms cannot cope. Try the former Gate Pa Bowling Club site, The Domain North, Coronation Park, Graham Park .... ANYWHERE with views of the harbour and or Mauao, high profile, accessible, parking and room for growth, BUT NOT the ridiculous CBD or massacre site of Cliff Rd and skip the spin!

Back to the Future Sg1nz

Posted on 28-04-2018 20:13 | By maildrop

Argh, the 70s. Inflation, unemployment, multiple recessions. Wasn’t that the era of Labour’s "borrow and hope"? How apt. I’m guessing you weren’t there. Progress indeed.


Posted on 28-04-2018 19:57 | By groutby

....I truly just don’t get it...the unaffordable expense in current circumstances and almost enforced situation of it being at Cliff Road when there is so much more work to do of more priority than a Museum. Obviously I am currently against a museum, anywhere, but I tell you what, my interest would perk up if 17th Ave Historic Village site was mentioned as an alternative....in the future....lock that in for me!


Posted on 28-04-2018 11:23 | By maildrop

Define progress please? Is it raising the debt burden to $1bn and increasing rates by 40% over 3 years? To fund something that commercial investors won’t risk?

40 buses a day

Posted on 28-04-2018 11:22 | By Johnney

Yeah right. Might get 40 buses a day when we have two cruise ships docked fleeing to Rotorua. Dreams are free.


Posted on 27-04-2018 21:13 | By dumbkof2

what happened to the original comments on this article

Not in my neighborhood

Posted on 27-04-2018 19:44 | By Sg1nz

Typical resistance to change and progress. The city will never move forward if it is controlled by people that are scared of change and want to live in the 70’s.

Peter and Margaret????

Posted on 27-04-2018 19:43 | By Bruja

The bottom line is that you have chosen to live in what is basically the CBD. THAT is exactly where a museum should be located. My suggestion? Don’t like that?...then move to suburbia. End of.


Posted on 27-04-2018 16:58 | By jeancraven@kinect.co.nz

Totally agree - Cliff Road is NOT the place for a museum.

Onsite hotel included?

Posted on 27-04-2018 16:35 | By MISS ADVENTURE

So is that the same type of setup as Ta Papa? A few special people have accomodation, meals and full and complete hotel services all on the ratepayers? Is that teh plan, I would like TCC to deny this please.

24 hours a day?

Posted on 27-04-2018 16:09 | By MISS ADVENTURE

Thats crazy, so the plans include accomodation, kitchen and full on hotel services and facilities? What possible reason would there be for that? Like attached to the museum, presume that is going to be top loor luxury accomodation and facilities for exclusive usage of just a few overpaid emaployees and mates?

40 buses a day?

Posted on 27-04-2018 16:07 | By MISS ADVENTURE

Where possibly are they gong to park? Where possibly are they going to get the people from to occupy those buses "EVERY" day? 40 buses will need room to park, drive in and out, unload and turn around... and more I am sure. So the bus parking space will take up most of the space, no room for anything else right? These numbers are ludicrus, crazy, nuts and smack of the same gargae that was created for the Art Gallery and every otehr scheme rort and ripoff that TCC has ever been anywhere near!

Time for change

Posted on 27-04-2018 15:08 | By backofthequeue

There is something intrinsically wrong within Tauranga City Council that causes it to view zoned green space as nothing more than land awaiting commercial development. Be it Cliff Road, Sulphur Point, Coronation Park, etc. etc. this mindset has to change. One is beginning to think that maybe it really is time for government commissioners to be appointed to straighten out the dysfunction that seems to currently pervade our current council.


Posted on 27-04-2018 15:02 | By dumbkof2

the museum will go ahead despite 80% of the voters against it. 240 thou visitors a year. will need to demolish the new police station, rose gardens , the elms plus others just to acomodate all the busses. also just think of all the money this will bring in. mean while when the council comes down from cloud cookoo land and they all start looking for new jobs. oh well, never mind

Annual visitors?

Posted on 27-04-2018 14:17 | By MISS ADVENTURE

240,000 in 2023? That is completely rediculous! If the plan is free local admission then that means about 216000 locals will go annually, thats double the actual population of Tauranga... what a joke it all is, total fabrication to self justify a castle creation, monument to stupid!

Eyesore for sure

Posted on 27-04-2018 14:10 | By MISS ADVENTURE

Thats before one even gets to the truth of it, all is a fabrication created to self justify and all is la-la land stuff.

40 buses a day?

Posted on 27-04-2018 14:08 | By MISS ADVENTURE

Yeah right, that is crap creation if there was anythign to say about it

Where do these figures come from!

Posted on 27-04-2018 13:30 | By P Double

I seem to recall some generous attendance forecasts for the museum in Katikati, which went ahead in spite of a large number opposing it and suggesting it would be a millstone for the future.My understanding is that in the year to end of August 2017 the Museum had total income of $82,535, mainly from sponsorships, grants and donations.Total expenses, including salaries and employment costs were $115,806.This resulted in a deficit of $33,271.The total number of walk-in paying visitors during the year was 1588. That is an average of just 31 per week.WBOP Council contributed $74,000 to the museum so it cost ratepayers $46 for each paying visitor.Now the museum is requesting an annual subsidy of $70,000 from the council.


Posted on 27-04-2018 13:06 | By Raewyn

Definitely not at Cliff Road!!!!!!!!!!!!


Posted on 27-04-2018 12:20 | By overit

Right on.


Posted on 27-04-2018 12:12 | By Kaimai

No Museum on Cliff road - other issues need to be dealt with first, and then address the funding of the museum before proceeding.

Stick it to them

Posted on 27-04-2018 12:06 | By Chookymac

This sort of thing has been going on over the years.Museum?Having lived here most of my life I have seen Historic Buildings pulled down,some shifted to 17th ave and I think this is where the History for Tauranga is (!7th Ave) and thats where a Museum if we must have it should be Put


Posted on 27-04-2018 12:06 | By rastus

Wonderful to read some common sense rather than all the ridiculous spin from those with the museum agenda!

Spot on Ted

Posted on 27-04-2018 12:04 | By maildrop

It’s laughable. They have taken the unprecedented growth in tourism in recent years and projected it forward like its a conveyor belt. Muppets. Well, the muppets are the idiots who have swallowed the consultants garbage. The port isn’t big enough, there aren’t enough buses, not enough bed spaces to support these figures, even if there was an appetite to be bored to death, which there isn’t. Some places are sick of the global tourism boom - Palma has just banned holiday letting in most of the city because the locals are fed up with the influx and all the crap that comes with it. The tide will go out here, no doubt about that.

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