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Titirangi Summit Redevelopment Project will level large area of summit

A large area of the summit of Kaiti Hill will be levelled as part of the Titirangi Summit Redevelopment Project.

Plans call for the removal of the observatory building — part of a $6 million project to redevelop the area.

The observatory will be replaced by a multi-purpose building, Gisborne District Council’s Future Tairawhiti Committee heard yesterday.

In July last year the committee approved a rebuild concept for the James Cook Observatory that would include a Tairawhiti Night Experience, construction of a star compass, installation of a sculptural star park and development of a digital night guide.

Yesterday the committee heard geotechnical investigations completed as part of the redevelopment project have found that earthworks will be required to correct instability issues around the observatory.

A report outlined key findings from summit site investigations, including confirmation that part of the observatory building was located on non-engineered fill, which is prone to instability and land slippage.

The recommendation is to cut down the knoll the observatory sits on and remove the non-engineered fill and geology that has caused instability issues.

With this removed, a large area of suitable land will be available for a new building development and possibly parking.

The council will work with Ngati Oneone to determine an appropriate place for the soil removed, in an effort to retain as much of the hill as possible.

In April, the committee agreed in principle that the preferred option for the summit redevelopment was to replace the observatory with a multi-purpose building but retain the gun emplacement.

Site investigations followed in May, looking at amenity provisions, possible carpark layouts, as well as ground stability and building footprint options.

Another geotechnical recommendation was to reticulate wastewater services instead of soakage pits (the current method for the observatory building) due to the effect it could have on land stability and the general clay-rich nature of the soil.

This will require further investigations to determine the most effective way to trench down the hill to connect into the main service lines.

More options for public conveniences will be presented, once civil engineering reports are complete.

The summit redevelopment is one of five projects under the Tairawhiti Navigations programme.

A budget of $6 million for the summit project is included in an application to the Provincial Growth Fund.

Last month the council was awarded $3.1m in funds to develop a walk-bridge connecting the Cook Landing Site to Titirangi and a Te Maro commemorative site.

A decision is expected for the summit redevelopment funding in August.

Navigations project manager De-Arne Sutherland told the committee the area on which the observatory stood would be levelled down to near the car park level.

This had been discussed with Ngati Oneone and, because this was fill and not original geology, they did not have an issue with that. The project was not tampering with the original landscape.

There was a process to work through.

There were stability issues with having a building on the hill.

When councillors asked how much of the knoll would be removed, Mayor Meng Foon said “we don’t want it to be the lowest hill in New Zealand”.

Facing the bulldozers: The knoll under the James Cook Observatory - and the observatory building itself - would be removed as part of the Titirangi summit redevelopment project. Gisborne district councillors, sitting yesterday as the Future Tairawhiti committee, were told the knoll is not a natural feature of the landscape. The fill is causing instability and land slippage issues, which is effecting the observatory building.