Thousands of clay tiles, many inscribed with historical messages, make up Wanaka’s Millennium Walkway; however, one key message is missing: “The path is in jeopardy. Our community millennium project, your family history and tiles paid for by your families and businesses will be lost.”
Wanaka-resident Elizabeth (Liz) Hall shared that message with the Wanaka Sun on Monday while she was headquartered at New World Wanaka to gather signatures on a community petition to preserve the 650m, 2000-tile Millennium Walkway, which she said is currently is at risk of being removed from the town’s lakefront walkway after 18 years of display. Other concerned Upper Clutha residents, including Graham Taylor and Frances Copland, who originated the petition idea, joined her efforts at the grocery store.
Construction on Queenstown Lakes District Council’s (QLDC) stage two of its proposed lakefront development plan is projected to start next month and will determine the future or fate of the existing millennium tiles as part of the widening of the lakefront walkway between the new Mt Aspiring Road car park to Dungarvon Street.
It is reportedly proposed that, to preserve the community significance of the Millennium Walkway, the printed tiles could be individually recorded and uplifted into a 4m-wide shared path.
Conversely, it is also reported that the plan could reposition similar historical tiles around the foot of low garden walls near the log cabin, thereby deleting some or all of the community millennium tiles.
“My understanding from listening to others who have had more direct contact with council is that there may be not enough space for all the existing tiles. Therefore, some tiles would be left out, some may be altered and more added to record history since 2000. This alarms me. We need clarification and assurance from council that all the tiles will be retained,” said concerned Luggate resident Jenny Moss who wants to see the Millennium Walkway preserved in its original location.
“Our council may greatly alter what locals in the past have created. It’s part of our history. Any future recorded history should be a separate project.”
When asked for comment, a QLDC spokesperson said, “No decision has been made by QLDC and the Wanaka Community Board (WCB) regarding the future of the Millennium Walkway and its tiles. Both QLDC and WCB are attending a workshop on Monday, February 4, to further define the future of the Millennium Walkway. The WCB has indicated strong support for the inclusion of a Millennium Walkway in stage two of the Wanaka Lakefront Development Plan, and details of the preferred option will follow this workshop.”
Hall, who was a former QLDC community programmes coordinator and instrumental in starting and completing the Millennium Walkway project in November 2001, said she has not been a part of any “meaningful discussion” on the walkway’s future since April 2016, and she implores council that she be included in the conversation. She also maintains that the millennium tiles should be retained in their original location.
“I feel that this is very disrespectful of that effort and the people responsible for the compilation and the art work,” said Hall.
Originally hired to organise the millennium projects for the town, Hall assembled a project committee, and more than 200 people and businesses paid $100 per tile to represent a year of the millennium; the most important events of the world, New Zealand and Wanaka were recorded on the tiles by hand.
The Community Trust of Otago, the Lotteries Commission and sponsors all helped fund the $39,000 project.
There are reports from some that the tiles are too brittle to withstand the heavy foot, bike, city mowers and other walkway traffic resulting in their damage throughout the years.
“Thirty volunteers wrote the information on the tiles with black glaze which has never worn off,” said Hall. “Some tiles have been replaced because they were broken mostly by the council mower. Locals and visitors use the path with great interest daily. Groups of children use it for a quiz. Dozens of people worldwide have contacted us to inquire how we did it so they can try something similar in their community.”
Taylor said, “Since the bricks were laid alongside the winding tiles, the mower damage has been greatly reduced; it is no big problem to replace damaged tiles and, for that matter, to make corrections, but you cannot rewrite history.”
Hall added, “We have been asking for a tidy-up for a couple of years but have been told to wait because of the impending lakefront revamp, and they [council] were unsure of what was going to happen on the Lakefront. The path was formed by fundraising money, but council are responsible for its upkeep.”
Hall, Taylor and Copland collected more than 300 petition signatures on Monday and their efforts are ongoing. The petition will again be available to sign at New World this Saturday and at several Wanaka-based businesses. From there, Taylor will present the collected signatures at an upcoming WCB meeting.