Cromwell's highway underpass opens linking town to lake

by Kim Bowden - Aug 25, 2023

A state highway is no longer an obstacle for walkers and bikers keen to access a popular stretch of Lake Dunstan from Cromwell.

The Wooing Tree underpass officially opened today linking the new neighbourhood with the Big Fruit Reserve and the centre of town.

From Wooing Tree it is a short trot to McNulty Inlet, the boat club, and the ever popular Lake Dunstan Trail.

Steve and Thea Farquharson, the husband-and-wife owners of the vineyard come residential development cut the ribbon to open the underpass with an invited guest list of local council and iwi representatives, contractors, business partners and early Wooing Tree residents.

Steve and Thea Farquharson cut the ribbon on the Cromwell underpass linking Wooing Tree Estate to the town centre.

Mr Farquharson says right back when the subdivision idea was seeded a link to safely connect pedestrians to "town" was on the cards.

Now, he sees it being "well used" by Cromwellians in general as well as cycle tourists, in addition to Wooing Tree residents.

"It's a great bit of infrastructure."

The construction of the underpass, alongside the State Highway 8B roundabout outside the subdivision's entrance, was paid for by the Farquharsons and their development partners - an investment of more than $4.4 million.

Wooing Tree project partner Duarne Lankshear, of Veros Property, says the underpass is the realisation of one of a number of "really deliberate" decisions the developers have made to do the "boring things" well, to make the neighbourhood very liveable and an asset for the town.

There was the suggestion by Mr Lankshear that it was important they got those things right, seeing as Cromwell lost iconic vineyard rows to make way for houses - although more than a hectare of the original Wooing Tree grapes remain on a buffer zone alongside the highway.

Mr Lankshear acknowledges the huge transition from vineyard, to dusty paddocks, to new builds, to finished infrastructure, and that the changes will keep coming, with the outlook to the neighbourhood only improving, as trees grow, households more in, and businesses open their doors.

Mr Farquharson says a new cellar door for his wine label is slated to open in December, if construction timelines are met, with its location adjacent to the underpass entry on the Wooing Tree side of the highway.

He says it will include a great outside space to wine and dine, hopefully in time for summer.

The next business locked in at the site is a BestStart early childhood centre, which will go some way towards relieving tight demand for preschool options for Cromwell families.

The centre has received Ministry of Education approval to open the new purpose-built facility for up to 82 youngsters.

Ribbon cutting and karakia: Darren Rewi is joined by the community in a blessing of the new under-highway tunnel.

As for what else locals can expect to fill the commercial zoned buildings in the subdivision, it is a waiting game.

Mr Farquharson says both Joe's Garage and Good George Brewing have shown an interest in filling some of the four potential spaces for food and beverage outlets.

Today, local kaumātua Darren Rewi led a karakia to bless the underpass, and those in attendance joined him in being the first to walk under the highway, gently touching the walls of the tunnel with their left hands as they moved though it.

"We are passing our mana to that space," he explains.

In te ao Māori, the left side of the body is considered the feminine balance to the masculine right, and is associated with nurturing, he says, so he hopes the collective blessing will embody the new public space with a feeling of safety and welcoming, now and into the future.

The Wooing Tree subdivision received planning approval under the government's Covid-19 response fast-track consenting process. It is flagged for completion in 2025, by when it is expected to have 390 homes. To date, more than 100 have been built.

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