Wellington Waterfront. © WREDA

Wellington Waterfront: where writers' words are cast


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Wellington waterfront is the envy not only of most other New Zealand cities, but also of many cities around the world.

It’s been developed in a way that maximises the city’s location, crowded by the surrounding hills against the harbour. After all, it’s far too nice a body of water to screen off behind container cranes and warehouses. The whole crescent from Chaffers Marina (where you’ll find Te Papa Tongarewa and the magnificent Waitangi Park) to Queens Wharf is gloriously open, with a broad boulevard at the water’s edge lined with bars, restaurants and public artworks.

The sculptures include a Len Lye kinetic piece, the Water Whirler, the eccentric and wonderful Wellington City to Sea Bridge, and a depiction of the discovery of Wellington Harbour by the Polynesian navigator, Kupe.

It also includes the innovative Wellington Writers Walk, a series of concrete plaques bearing quotations from 23 noted New Zealand writers who have or had strong links to Wellington. They range from the little-known – his plaque on the walk is probably the only enduring memorial writer and journalist Pat Lawlor will have in New Zealand literature – to the giants: Katherine Mansfield, Robin Hyde, Bruce Mason, Maurice Gee and Patricia Grace all called the capital home at some time in their lives.

The writers walk was the brainchild of the Wellington branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors and the first stage opened in 2001. Each plaque was cast to the direction of typographer Catherine Griffiths. They pick out the words in high relief and in a tall, bold font. The sun casts the shadows of the words and the words stand out from their industrial concrete matrix.

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The walk meanders from Chaffers Marina to Frank Kitts Park and the City and Sea Bridge. You can either pick up a pamphlet that will guide you from plaque to plaque, or you can let them surprise you as you stroll along the waterfront.

The sites for all 23 were chosen so as to place the quotation in proximity to a perspective on Wellington and its harbour. Perhaps most striking of all is Baxter’s, which seems to float above the surface of the pool outside Te Papa, reflected in the water on the capital’s rare, windless days.

Each quotation is a perspective on the city and invites you to meditate as you walk. Wellington ‘bursts like a bomb’, is ‘the edge of the universe’, is ‘a place where magic can be made and miracles occur’, is a ‘dear city’, where ‘there is always an edge... requiring vigilance’, is ‘the world headquarters of the verb’.

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