Curio Bay development garners national planning award win

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Curio Bay Tumu Toka Natural Heritage Visitor Centre. Photo: Supplied

A multifaceted infrastructure development aiming to protect one of Southland’s tourism jewels was recognised at this year’s New Zealand Planning Institute (NZPI) Awards.

The Tumu Toka Curioscape development at Curio Bay received the award for Best Practice Integrated Planning and Investigations for its infrastructure collaboration.

South Catlins Charitable Trust chairman Paul Duffy says the win recognised a truly combined effort.

The South Catlins Charitable Trust, Southland District Council, Opus International Consultants, Department of Conservation, Venture Southland and iwi worked alongside one another to develop the project, which aimed to educate the growing number of visitors to the area about the significance of the site and its local wildlife.

“That collaboration really made the difference to the project. Each element depended on the other, and each aspect of the project relied on the other pieces of the puzzle falling into place. Without that level of collaboration the project simply would not have happened,” he says.

“Here in Southland we’ve always known what a special area Curio Bay is, and a growing number of people from around the world are coming here to celebrate Curio Bay too. It was crucial that the right infrastructure was developed to protect and sustainably manage the area’s heritage.”

In addition to the natural heritage centre, which features a café, interpretation area, and theatre, a new wastewater treatment plant, carpark, ablution block, and penguin habitat planting were also developed as part of the project, which was more than a decade in the making.

Opus workgroup leader – planning Luke McSoriley said Opus drafted and progressed resource consent applications for each of the elements that made up the overall project.

“The consenting process posed a unique challenge, as each part of the project needed to be treated as separate but was also directly connected to, and reliant on, the other elements that made up the overall development. They also needed to be respectful of the important values of the area,” he says.

“The project was a really interesting example of collaboration between different stakeholders who, while they had different needs, had a shared vision for a highly-sensitive environment. The end result achieved the aim of the different organisations involved and improved the overall visitor experience.”

Curio Bay is home to several wildlife species including hoiho (yellow-eyed penguins) and Hectors Dolphins, and is regularly visited by native sea lions. Curio Bay is also home to a nearby petrified forest.

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