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Park offers respite in Victoria Street

Park offers respite in Victoria Street

A passerby takes time out at the new mini-park
on the National Radiation Laboratory site at
108 Victoria Street.

A new mini-park in Victoria Street offers a place of respite where people can contemplate poems that reflect on the character and culture of the street.

The park is situated on the former National Radiation Laboratory site at 108 Victoria St. Christchurch City Council has secured a lease from the Ministry of Health to use the space.

The park and poems are part of a Council Transitional City project that also includes colourful street light pole wraps and distinctive designs on bench seats.

The poems were selected through a competition organised by the Council.

The three works chosen are:
• Whakapapa by Ariana Tikao
• Ōtākaro to Victoria by Hinemoana Baker
• Victoria Street by Ben Brown

All three poets have strong links to Christchurch.

For Ariana Tikao, the project has seen greater awareness of her poetry.

“I have had some good feedback from whanau and friends. Some of them were unaware that I wrote poetry but my song-writing came out of poetry really.”

Both Tikao’s parents are from Christchurch her father is Kāi Tahu and she spent most of her life in the city. Now based in Wellington, Tikao works with Māori collections at the Alexander Turnbull Library.

Transitional projects are an important part of the rethinking of the city's identity for the future, she says.

“I hope that we can come up with a vibrant, confident city informed by, but not restrained by the past.”

Tikao says the inspiration for Whakapapa came to her one morning.

“I was thinking particularly about what is hidden in terms of history, stories, voices and/or physical objects such as bones (koiwi) that might lie underneath the street. Queen Victoria and the vitality of Market Place, which was later Victoria Square, are sub-themes.”

Hinemoana Baker, who was born in Christchurch and studied at University of Canterbury, says it is the first time one of her poems has been given “the honour” of this kind of installation design treatment.

She enjoyed the challenge of writing about a place with the history of Victoria Street.

“I also liked the fact that it would available to read in public in a way that a book isn't.”

Her inspiration came from Otakaro, the Avon, and also the way the street appears on a map and the relationship between the two, which could be seen as like the hands of a clock.

“I thought about the history of the river, and rivers in general, in terms of transport and lifeblood, and the way that traffic on a street was also like corpuscles in the veins of the body of a city. That's where the 'artery' image came from.”

There has already been positive feedback and Baker says she hopes her poem might make people think about the relationship between the different histories of the city.

The message Ben Brown’s work conveys is that all roads must lead somewhere. It is a piece aimed at passersby.

“The passerby owns the street. The various premises exist only because a citizen has chosen this particular path on this particular day with a particular purpose in mind.

“The initial piece of imagery is the clock at an intersection of roads, an eccentric intersection it has to be said, the lights are never green long enough, awkward angles…”

Brown, who moved to Christchurch in 1986, says of the Transitional City projects, “Cities are constantly in a state of transition, earthquake or no, so it is always important that projects such as this not only exist, but persist”.

Mayor Bob Parker says the Transitional City Programme is an important part of the rebuild effort.

“These projects are a sign of the progress that is being made and go a long way towards helping lift spirits. The activities and entertainment they provide draw people and businesses back into the city.”

The Victoria Street project has involved collaboration between business and landowners, the Council and the artists, says the Council’s Urban Regeneration Unit Manager Carolyn Ingles.

For more information on the transitional programme, go to

- ends –

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