'Whalebones' treated to timely facelift

Published: 10 November 2023

Love them or loathe them, the arbors in Baring Square East have had a facelift.

The arbors have been cleaned using a diamond-head sander and decades worth of grime are gone.

Baring Square East is being revamped to co-incide with the opening of the new library and civic building Te Whare Whakatere. There will be more gathering areas and places to sit and enjoy the space.

Council Group Manager Neil McCann said the arbors had been cleaned and sanded and were looking great.

“They have a finish that now resembles polished concrete, and the seal will protect the concrete for decades to come.”

The arbors were installed when the square was redeveloped to mark centenary celebrations of the Ashburton Borough in 1978.

The landscape architects at the time, Boffa Jackman and Associates, proposed that the design be modern, but with elements of nostalgia. The precast concrete archway arbors were considered modern but of traditional design, and intended to evoke a feeling of walking beneath a cloister.

When Council consulted the community in 2020 about renovating the square, submitters were split on whether the arbors (or whalebones as they have become known) should stay or go.

“Council decided to keep them, though four of the original arbors have been removed. One was taken down in 2019 because it was structurally unsound and we took down three more to balance the square during this current redevelopment,” Mr McCann said.

“Cleaning them with the diamond-head sander and sealing them means we can keep water out of any cracks and extend their life.”

Other work under way in Baring Square East involves establishing new grass areas, installing electrical connections and paving, which will get under way from Monday 13 November.

The Boer War Memorial was moved from Baring Square East to Baring Square West during the renovations. The memorial has been cleaned and strengthened and is sitting on a new base; a path will be created around it soon.

Mr McCann said Council was working with the Ashburton RSA to find an appropriate way to acknowledge the restoration and new location.

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