Cameron Road’s past will help shape its future

Cows grazing on Cameron Road in the 1920s. Photo: Tauranga City Libraries Image 99-740.

Time never stands still and while today's Cameron Road feels very familiar, it's about to undergo its next major transformation.

Tauranga City Council has secured a $45m grant from central government to futureproof Cameron Road from Harington Street in the city centre down to 17th Avenue beside Tauranga hospital.

The work is government-funded to support New Zealand's recovery from COVID-19. Work will begin next year to make Cameron Road safer, more attractive and provide more ways to move so people can choose whether to walk, cycle, use public transport or drive.

This major redevelopment will be designed to meet the needs of our growing city, supporting Te Papa peninsula intensification, planned growth in Tauriko and improving public transport reliability for those travelling from Welcome Bay.

The council is determined to also honour Cameron Road's cultural and historical past. The project team is working closely with mana whenua including representatives of Ngāi Tamarāwaho and Ngāti Tapu to discover how they can pay tribute using elements of urban design.

Josh Te Kani is responsible for strategic Māori engagement for the council and says Cameron Road follows the natural ridgeline along the Te Papa peninsula and was always a thoroughfare pre-European settlement.

'Geographically, it has always been the centre of this region. It was a hub of activity and quite a mixing pot for local iwi. It was a popular trading area and there was a large defensive pā called Otamataha where the Elms' Mission House and cemetery now stand.

'There is very fertile soil in the city centre so there were large kūmara gardens everywhere that sustained local iwi. It's pretty cool how the city centre has just developed naturally here.”

Mapping investigations have uncovered over 20 natural springs, four of which were large enough to sustain crops and tangata whenua in the area. While they're impossible to see now, Josh says 'there's a big clue for you and it's called Spring Street. The city's been built over the top of them.”

In 1828 a warring tribe attacked the area, scattering the original Māori descendants further afield.

'When big attacks like that happen and lots of people die, Māori tend to remove themselves from the area, hence the reason we don't have any marae here in the city centre. Māori went back to their other homes – to Judea, Matapihi and Maungatapu. They went to those surrounding areas to find refuge because their home at Otamataha pā had been destroyed.”

Josh Te Kani, responsible for Māori Strategic Engagement at Tauranga City Council and Principal Transport Planner Sarah Dove. Photo: Supplied.

A subsequent land sale to the Church Missionary Society (CMS) saw the Te Papa Mission Station set up in 1838 under the leadership of Alfred Brown and tensions over who owned the land peaked in 1864 at the Battle of Gate Pā.

'As well as being a natural thoroughfare for Maori, Cameron Road was also used by British soldiers to carry their cannons and heavy artillery from The Strand all the way through to Gate Pā. The soldiers marched along that very route.”

While Māori won a mighty victory at Gate Pā, the land wars soon saw vast tracts of land confiscated by the Crown, including the city centre and Cameron Road area.

'The city itself was built on a foundation of confiscation so the people that originally occupied this area were removed through tribal attacks, the CMS transaction and finally the land wars. If you look at the history, you can see why there isn't a cultural layer here in the city centre today. It was removed through a number of different factors.”

Cameron Road was formally constructed in 1871 and named after General Duncan Cameron who led the British troops in the Battle of Gate Pā. It was just grass to begin with, resulting in a long-running controversy over the grazing of cows. By the late 1920s the political question of the day was whether or not you were in favour of taking cows off the streets.

Eventually sections of Cameron Rd had metal chip added but Tauranga's first motor cars had to drive with chains on rainy days to avoid getting stuck in the mud. The first attempt at tar sealing was applied using a watering can and a broom. In 1932 the council decided to seal the road from Elizabeth Street to Eleventh Ave, but it wasn't until the 1940s that two-way traffic was established.

The main road has always been a hub for community activities and businesses.

Churches, theatres, hotels, the fire station, hospital, schools, parks, bowling greens, war memorial halls and the telephone exchange have all sprung up, and many historical buildings are still home to retail businesses today. Residential homes were also a notable feature – and the Brian Watkins House, built on the corner of Cameron Road and Elizabeth Street in 1881, remains a window into our past.

It is these ‘glimpses' that the council will now try to enhance and protect as the next era of Cameron Road takes shape. Principal Transport Planner Sarah Dove says incorporating a cultural narrative within the new design has the potential to add so much value for a wide range of people.

'We certainly want to acknowledge the history. We will be working with our iwi partners and other stakeholders and at the moment we're still in the very early stages of what those elements might actually look like.”

Urban design options can include adding cultural patterns to pavement treatments, using tree species or specific materials such as stones or shells that are of importance to local hapu, designing benches or resting places with a cultural element, installing artwork, and using wayfinding and signposting techniques to draw attention to areas of historical significance.

'There are a lot of destinations off Cameron Road and we want to try and encourage people to access those by different transport modes. So, we need better signage to help people find their way to destinations like leisure facilities and reserves and so on. But there's also an opportunity to use those signs to provide some cultural identity and historical context too.

'It's a very exciting project and we're looking forward to better representing our past while ensuring Cameron Road is ready to support Tauranga's future.”

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Here we go

Posted on 28-12-2020 10:01 | By Kancho

Safer means much slower, refer Greerton , bike lanes, bus etc means traffic standstill and driver frustration. Business closures through lack of parking . Flow will just get worse. Buses just don't work for most and cycling the same. Predict the work will frustrate everyone for a worse outcome, just like Greerton. To avoid this work and aftermath traffic will divert though other streets only designed for suburban use so more unhappy home dwellers. Progress yeah right

Past to dictate future

Posted on 28-12-2020 10:38 | By Johnney

Let’s hope the past doesn’t dictate the future. An on ramp from 11th Ave to Tauriko and double laning Turret Rd would be better taken care of first

More from the Beautiful People.

Posted on 28-12-2020 11:31 | By Cynical Me

Well, let's hope they stuff it up like they have Greerton and are busy doing in other places. Then finally the peasants will get fed up with Educated and toss them out.

Money better spent elswhere.

Posted on 28-12-2020 11:36 | By Cynical Me

That $45 million would be much better spent adding some exits and entries to the motorway. It would be much better spent fixing up Barkes corner. It would be much better spent fixing Totara st (not the way they are though.). It would be much better spent adding another Hairini Bridge or even another Maungatapu Bridge but no they are going to fiddle while Rome falls to pieces. A disgraceful waste of money to pander to a few idle rich.

Have to agree with Kancho

Posted on 28-12-2020 12:01 | By The Caveman

Jook at Cameron Rd NOW - slow stop start traffic. This so called redevelopment will wind up like Greerton !!!

Save Us From TCC

Posted on 28-12-2020 13:00 | By Bob Landy

Sounds like $45m down the drain courtesy of the people who brought you a skateboard park in the middle of Mount Maunganui and lime scooters.

back to the future

Posted on 28-12-2020 15:44 | By hapukafin

Cameron road was originally designed as a 4 lane road.Is our council planning to bring back cows to graze on it now.


Posted on 28-12-2020 16:51 | By sambro

Agree with "here we go". It's not broken and this so called council want's to throw $45M at Cameron Rd? Most older people are aware of Tauranga history or are now after reading this article and most younger people don't give a toss. All anyone does gives a toss about is getting from A to B so spend $45M on that. If anyone really wants to know anything, in depth about Tauranga there is a thing called "The internet". Oh, and a library which we pay for.

It would seem to me.......

Posted on 28-12-2020 20:38 | By groutby insightful as the history (real or not) is about Cameron Road, already the focus is off course. This is written perfectly to assume we are building 'for the past' rather than the future. Historians of all types just love to introduce ( and are allowed to do so it seems) so many 'facts' about what happened in the 18 or 1900's..and this is actually built in to today's thinking in regard to our future. It surely is virtually irrelevant what happened back then and build FOR the future...we keep doing this and moving backwards every time we do it !!......$45 million spent on the past?...why bother....

Transport Planners!

Posted on 28-12-2020 22:31 | By Old Bloke

Rather than get excited about Councillors. The population should be ""telling"" Transport planners to stop screwing around with WOKE planning and get back to working out how to get motor vehicles moving around the city quicker. Yes and On Ramp at 11th Avenue !! Yes widening Turret road. Screwing around with Cameron Road with more Effing SignS! You must be kidding. But Hey for Sarah Dove. Its exciting!!! So its obviously worth wasting $45 million of taxpayers money on. Bah Humbug


Posted on 29-12-2020 07:31 | By Slim Shady

Sprinkle it with Pixie dust and plant some tulips all along it. Then when Mary Poppins comes to town we can all have a singalong.

Town and buses

Posted on 29-12-2020 08:13 | By Kancho

So we will be further 'encouraged' to cycle ? to walk or go on buses? I don't think so, as none are practical for many reasons for many people. But we will get this anyway it seems as it's a green agenda. More empty buses and slower traffic so who would want to go downtown any more ?. Well I guess more time will be in traffic as this all sounds worse not better. Bit like Greerton where they said try it and see even though it's set in a million of dollars of concrete


Posted on 29-12-2020 20:27 | By Val1

No wonder this so called Tauranga Council are in a sorry state. It would appear what we have to put up with in Greerton will continue through to the city if these non sensical dreamers have there way, wheres the logic. We the rate payers should take a stand on these so called idiots and that's putting it politely, this needs to stop and priority needs to be put to good roading use that rate payers actually have a voice in. Its apparent to me these plans moving forward are catering for mass reduction of cars on our roads.

Absolute waste of money

Posted on 30-12-2020 11:00 | By Fernhill22

Unless i'm mistaken, Cameron Road already has footpaths for Walking, bike lanes for Biking & buses routes for Buses. So for $45m we are getting some new Signage, Benches & Art Work which i'm sure could be completed for a fraction of the cost. As for Safety, look at the balls up down in Greerton to see what will happen to the whole of Cameron Road in the name of safety. The TCC's Transport Planners need to be working on ideas to fix Tauranga's traffic congestion not adding to it. We don't need bullsh*t woke projects like this & Totara St Bike Lane, Pilot Bay One Laning we need action to get Tauranga moving again. Use the $45m to rectify TCC'S past mistakes like Greerton, Maungatapu/ Welcome Bay first.

Ass about face

Posted on 30-12-2020 12:41 | By CC8

These "educated" council idiots are looking at the wrong end of history, They should focus on the LAST FEW YEARS screwups NOT what happened (or not) hundreds of years ago. I.E. their stupidity and ignorance of WHAT THE RATEPAYERS actually want and need to live productive lives, rather than trying to make history and please their university called "educators" . As others have said take a look at Greerton, Mount unused buses , cycle lanes, ridiculous lane marking turning straight roads into slalom courses (e.g. Fraser Street) and all the other stupidity fed out from the city "planning " department...Fools..they will not be remembered fondly.

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