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Young artists outside the square

Central Martinborough part of Innovating Streets programme. PHOTOS/SUE TEODORO

Martinborough’s children have designed art to help turn areas in The Square into living spaces, but some residents have reservations.

Children’s art submitted as part of the Innovating Streets programme.

The children have submitted more than 40 colourful designs, including rainbows, mountains, sea creatures, lilypads, jigsaws and even a New Zealand flag as part of the fun and informal competition to change the look and feel of a small part of Martinborough Square.

The art will become part of three broader designs that the public can vote on at the Waihinga Centre later this winter.

The winning design is expected to become a vibrant temporary addition to the road outside the Square.

The community-led initiative is being co-ordinated by South Wairarapa District Council as part of a broader national programme by the New Zealand Transport Agency to transform parts of New Zealand’s streets into more vibrant and safer areas.

The area outside the Martinborough Hotel and Cool Change Bar in Kitchener St has been chosen to have the street-art applied directly to the road, which would see that part of the road essentially pedestrianised.

Becs Reilly, owner of the Ventana Collective art space in Martinborough, and artist Andy Shaw will decide which combination of the children’s art will form part of three digital versions.

“The kids have done the designs, and Andy will take inspiration from all the designs and create digital designs.

“I like seeing them using patterns, and it being a pattern representing something,” Reilly said of the children’s artwork.

“We told the kids what was happening, gave them some blank sheets, and they drew some designs. We gave the kids some ideas to work with, including night sky, rivers, ocean and mountains and asked them to do their designs based on colour, lines, patterns and shapes.”

The children were all from Martinborough Primary School or the art classes at Ventana Collective.

The designs are intended to be painted right on to the road, next to the pavement, on what is asphalt. The width of the road will reduce to make it more pedestrian-friendly.

“There will possibly be planters and some kind of barrier initially, so it will be really obvious people won’t be able to drive on the painted areas,” Reilly said.

The area would also include platforms, benches and other things for people to use.

“It will make it a more engaging space for the community.”

South Wairarapa Mayor Alex Beijen said he fully supported the early engagement of children in the project, but said the proposed changes were a trial and permanent changes would be subject to public consultation over time.

“It’s delightful to see young kids have an opportunity to be involved at an early stage. I want it to be a community-led initiative.

“I totally support it, I can’t wait to see what the public choose,” he said.

However, Martinborough Community Board member Nathan Fenwick raised questions about the broader programme at a board meeting last week.

“What evidence is there that there has been a safety problem or near-misses or injuries in The Square?” he asked.

“I just want to know if there have been any accidents or near-misses.

“Why don’t they look at what has been done in Wellington in dropping the speed limit in certain places?

“You’re talking about putting barrels up and climbing plants, so if you’re in a car driving around [the Square] and someone steps out on to the crossing, you’ve got a potential near-miss there.

“The plants could block a bit of vision.

“It looks to me like you’re trying to condense the area, especially around the pedestrian crossing.”

Fenwick thought pedestrians’ views of oncoming traffic would be restricted.

He also asked why funds that were infrastructure-related were being used for the programme when it wasn’t infrastructure.

The NZTA programme was designed to help the sector plan, design and develop towns and cities by helping target retrofitting streets to reduce vehicle speeds and create more space for people.

A fund of at least $29 million was available for council projects.

The agency aimed to help make it easier for councils to deliver temporary or semi-permanent changes to streets, improvements that can test permanent fixes, and other projects that can help communities re-imagine their streets.

The timeframe for the installation in central Martinborough was not yet set but was expected in late-August.

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