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CUE Haven Viewing Platform

January 12, 2021

Since the earliest days of the CUE Haven restoration project, we have considered the idea of a structure at the top of the property where visitors could enjoy expansive views of the Kaipara Harbour.

Thanks to an amazing collaborative effort of the community, business and education, the platform is now a reality and the project is reflective of the CUE Haven values of people working together for the common good of the community.

The viewing platform idea started to become a reality in 2017 when Jeremy Parlane contacted us offering to volunteer his time to help out.  Jeremy is a landscape architect and we asked if he could come up with a concept for a viewing platform.

Jeremy advised us that before he could come up with anything, we would need to have the area surveyed and he introduced us to his friends at Ascension Surveyors who generously did pro bono work and surveyed potential areas and found a suitable site.

As a result of the survey, we identified an area near the top of the property.

Once Jeremy viewed the site and reviewed the survey maps, he developed a concept plan which envisioned a five meter high canopy walk.

We really liked Jeremy’s design, but weren’t sure how we could get it built, especially after he gave us some idea of what it might cost.  We decided to approach Unitec to see if they could help. Over the years, Unitec staff and students from various departments have been involved with projects at CUE Haven, and Peter McPherson, Head of School, School of Architecture & Design Unitec, generously agreed to have his staff and students be a part of this project too.

Masters in Architecture student, Gemma Campbell, decided to take on the design project as part of her masters thesis. Dr Yusef Patel was the Research Lead who would supervise and coordinate Gemma’s work and Semisi Potauaine, lecturer and Art and Design consultant, would also mentor and supervise Gemma’s work.

Peter McPherson advised us that while Unitec could do the architectural design work of the pavilion, a significant part of the project would be the engineering work and we would need to find an engineering firm.

We contacted Greg Lowe at Beca and after a site visit by Beca executives, Rupert Hodson and Andreas Borger, Beca very generously agreed to do the geotechnical and the structural engineering design work pro bono.

Our neighbours and good friends are members of our local hapu, Ngāti Rango of Ngāti Whatua, and they have been helping us to be good kaitiaki (guardians) of CUE Haven, which used to be part of their ancestral lands.   We invited our kaumatua, Haahi Walker and Rewana Walker, Kaiārahi of the CUE Haven Community Trust, to have a look at the site and to tell them what we were planning so they could be involved in the project from the beginning.

Before any significant work was done, it was necessary to have a geotechnical analysis of the site performed.  This would identify issues with ground stability and composition and determine the foundation for the platform.  Mid 2018, Beca geotechnical engineers Matthew Collins and Sangita Shah spent a day at CUE Haven collecting samples and taking measurements.

They analyzed their samples and reported back that Jeremy’s original design of a five meter height would not be practical due to cost considerations.  They recommended that the platform height be restricted to two meters and we advised Gemma so that she could factor that into her design work.

To acknowledge the archeologically significant ancient pa, Pukekowhai, located near the building site, Gemma designed the pavilion to look like a Maori whare.  During 2018 -2019 Gemma did her work and submitted it for her thesis evaluation.

Pak Tang, Beca Senior structural engineer, worked with Gemma to translate her design into engineering drawings which we could submit to the Council for the building permit. Structural engineer, Jordan Tan, also worked with Pak on the design.  In July 2019, Pak provided us with Beca’s engineering drawings and specifications.

We submitted the plans to the Council and got the building permit.

Prior to starting any construction, we requested kaumatua Haahi to bless the site and do the ground turning.  Joining us for the day were Haahi, his daughters Rewana and Rita and our friend Lyall.

We also started work to source the materials and specialty work, and the funding to pay for the materials and labour.

We applied to Foundation North for a Quick Response Grant to help with the initial expenses.  We want to thank kaumatua Haahi and the Rodney Local Board members for providing letters of support for our successful application.

We also launched a fundraising campaign to which our fantastic family, friends and supporters of CUE Haven in NZ, USA, UK, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, India, Poland and Netherlands very very generously donated. It was heartwarming that so many people from around the world wanted to help and be a part of this special community project.

One of the biggest expenses was going to be installing the 33 foundation poles which needed to be concreted up to 5 meters deep in ground.   We contacted Rob Gibson and Andy Booth at Wharehine and they very generously agreed to do the work pro bono and also donated metal to improve the main road to enable their vehicles to get up to the site.

We contracted with builder Kevin Sutherland to do the construction.  The first step in the building work was to site the proposed building and install building profiles.  Kevin came out in October 2019 and installed the profiles.  He was assisted by his father, David, also a builder.

Once the profiles were in place, the Council approved the building site and dimensions.

The next step was to get the road and site ready for Wharehine to install the poles.  Wharehine delivered the metal and CUE Haven’s long term friend and roading contractor, Peter Hopkins of Helensville Diggers, widened the main road and spread the metal to ready the road for the big vehicles to drive up to the site.

We sourced the foundation poles at a special sponsorship rate from Pinepac.  The delivery truck was too large to make it up to the site so the logs were unloaded in the parking area below.

Peter transported the poles up to the site on his small truck.

It took several trips but he managed to get them all up to the site.

In late November, Wharehine installed the poles.  The first step was to bring up a giant digger which was delivered on a big truck that backed in through the front gate.

Once the digger was unloaded, it drove all the way up to the work site.

Stephan, Dylan and Charles got things organized and set to work.

 The first step was to measure the site and mark where each of the poles would be placed.

They set up the digger and went to work, digging the 5 meter holes.

Matthew, the Beca geotechnical engineer needed to check the depth of the holes and also sample the soil at the bottom of the holes to make sure the poles would be set in firm ground.

We also needed an Auckland Council inspection of the holes.

Once all the checks and approvals were taken care of, the Wharehine team could install the poles.

Each pole was braced with metal rods and then came one of the scariest parts of the process—concreting the poles in place.  Peter had widened and improved the main road going up to the site, but the huge cement trucks needed the whole road!

Near the site is an intersection where the trucks were able to turn around and reverse up to the site.

Once on site, they emptied the concrete into a bucket attached to the digger.

The bucket was carried to each pole and the concrete dumped in.

And it was amazingly neat and accurate!

Because there were so many poles and they are so close together, they had to plan the order in which to place them so there would be room for the concrete bucket.  Eventually, the last pole was placed!

Once the foundation poles were installed, Peter moved the soil generated from digging the holes to create a loading platform by the platform site.

On January 3, the timber for the bearers, joists and portal frames was delivered.

Once again, the trucks couldn’t make it up the hill and Peter had to take up the timber to the site in smaller loads.

Peter also provided a storage shed for the building site.

Once all the timber was on site, builder Kevin and his associate Josh could get to work.

The first step in the construction was cutting the poles down to size.  It took two days with two chainsaws.

Once all the poles were cut down, everything was checked for height and alignment.

The poles were then notched to allow support for the bearers.

Because of the proximity of the platform to the Kaipara Harbour, all of the fasteners needed to be stainless steel, and Mike Thompson and Anthony Excell at Fortress Fasteners very generously agreed to donate all the fasteners we needed – nuts, bolts, screws, washers and threaded rods, that they carried in stock.

However, we still needed to get stainless steel plates and bracing specially custom fabricated to support the portal frames once the bearers were bolted into place.

The bearers were installed.

Kevin and Josh built access walkways around the structure to enable work on all sides.

The plans called for stainless steel straps at each intersection of the bearers and joists.

Joists installed:

Nogs installed:

Once the foundations was complete, work began on the portal frame arches. Each frame was built up out of four pieces of timber.  The connections were secured with plywood gussets nailed in place and secured in aluminum bracing.

Peter used his digger to lift up and install the first and smallest portal in place.

The remaining portals were then assembled.

Because of the size and weight of the remaining portals, it was necessary to secure a Hiab crane to lift them into place.  Due of the length of the crane truck, it was a bit of a challenge getting it up to the site.

But once on site, the crane operator had no trouble lifting and installing the frames in the slots.

Once the portals were in place they were braced with temporary timber and it was possible to get an idea of how the completed structure would look.

The next step was making sure all the portals were properly aligned and bolting them in place.

Sunset 3 February

The top and sides of the pavilion are covered with a traditional weave pattern of red and black boards and the boards needed to be painted.  We contacted Alison Stankovich at Dulux and Dulux very generously donated the paint and supplies and even sent their staff for two days to help with the painting.

Kevin cut the boards to size and we stacked them up in the nursery for the painting days.

Dulux staff  – Daisy, Dean, Evander, George, Kevin, Phillip, Raelene Sergio, Shontelle – at work

We needed to apply three coats of paint so in addition to Dulux, over the next few days we also had ANZ staff (Kim, Linda, Shravan and Vicki), and community volunteers (Alan, Grace, Khushru, Mahrukh, Pearl and Thomas) helping with the painting the boards and the purlins.

While the boards were being painted, Kevin installed the balustrade.

It was also time for another Council inspection for the sub-flooring.  Inspection – Pass!

The next step was installing the floor decking.

Once the flooring was done, the railings were completed.

Sunset – 2 March 2020

To install the cladding boards, Kevin would need scaffolding to access the top of the pavilion. Our friend Alan generously offered to loan us his scaffolding and even came out to help Kevin set it up.

The first step in completing the cladding was installing the purlin boards that would support the roof boards.  The holes for the bolts had to be routed out so the bolts and washers would be flush with the surface.

The purlins were then bolted in place.

The design called for extensive stainless steel bracing of the portal frames and it had to be custom made. Bryce Cantor of BSC Engineering met with Kevin and they reviewed the plans and for the various components.

While Bryce was doing the fabricating, Kevin and David continued installing the cladding boards.

Kevin’s and Bryce’s work schedules were impacted by the Covid lockdowns in 2020. When work started again Bryce had a big backlog of work and some challenges getting materials.  As a result, it was a while before he and his team could supply the bracing.  Once they finished it took a few days to install and finally fabricate everything.

Once the bracing was installed, the construction was complete and it was time for the final Council inspection.  Pass!!

Although the construction was finished, there was still a lot of work to do.  The amount of soil dug out when the poles were installed had completely changed the terrain and we wanted to do some landscaping to enable visitors to easily access the area and to provide seating, etc.

Also, there was a big ditch between the edge of the platform and the access road.

We asked Kevin and Peter to come up with a plan to address the access issue and they agreed that a deck between the platform and road would be the best solution.

The deck would need to be supported with a retaining wall along the road side and with posts on the deck side.  Peter cleared the area and dug holes for the posts.

Once the area was prepped, Kevin installed the posts.

And the posts were cemented in place.

Once the cement was dry, the tops of the posts were cut off and the retaining walls built.

Joists and bearers for the deck were installed.

And the decking was installed.

In order to ensure proper drainage, it was necessary to install pipes and backfill the area between the road and the retaining wall with scoria.  CUE Haven’s long time supporters, Daltons generously donated the scoria and drain pipe, which Peter installed.

The area in front of the platform also needed to be cleaned up and terraced and Peter went to work doing the landscaping.

From September through December 2020, we had several groups of our amazing volunteers help to build tracks to access the platform and to make seating for the platform area.

As it was well past the ideal planting season, the landscape planting has been deferred to 2021.

Sunset – 3 October 2020

Unitec staff were involved throughout the project and at the end, Gemma, who has now graduated, came out with friends one day to see the completed platform and assist with some track work.

Dr Yusef Patel and Semisi Potauaine also came out to see the completed platform and suggested having one of their Unitec students make some carved panels to cover the front and rear portal frames.

Masters of Architecture student Rick Kaufusi agreed to do the work and Rick and Yusef came out to do some measurements.

Rick came up with some concepts and we shared them with kaumatua Haahi to ensure that they were happy with the designs and representations.

Once the designs were finalized, Rick digitally printed them and cut them on to the panels on Unitec’s CNC machine. In mid-November Unitec School of Architecture Head, Peter McPherson, Yusef, Rick and volunteers Aabad, Ayesha, and Lyall came out to install the panels.

The first step was loading the panels and equipment into the ute so we could get everything up to the site.

Once on site, the panels were laid out to ensure everything would be installed in the right place.

The panels were then test fitted.

Because the gussets stand out from the portal frames, in order to allow the panels to sit flush, it was necessary to install battens behind the panels.  Yusef had brought timber to make the battens and we measured the portals to determine how long to make the battens.

The battens were then cut to size and holes drilled for the screws.

The battens were positioned and securely screwed in place.

Some of the ends of the bolts on the gussets stuck out too far and would be in the way so Lyall cut them off with an angle grinder.

The group carried on and once the battens were installed, the panels could be nailed in place.

It was a long day but we managed to get all of the panels installed.

The carvings on the front portal facing the entrance and the Pukekowhai Pa represent nature, with symbols for water, mountains, native plants and birds and mythical creatures.

The carvings on the back portal frame facing the regenerating forest and Kaipara Moana also tell the story of CUE Haven and the viewing platform project.  The left panel acknowledges the previous owners and the transition of the property from a farm in 2008 to a forest with the help of community volunteers and to becoming a community property in 2017.

The upper panels also acknowledge the people from Unitec, Beca and the other individuals involved in the design and construction of the platform.

And the panel on the right acknowledges the organizations that sponsored and supported the platform project — Unitec, Beca, Wharehine, Fortress, Dulux and Foundation North.

The last step was to varnish the panels to protect them from the weather.  Dulux generously provided the varnish which required three coats.  Because each coat required 12 hours to dry, we had to space out the job over several days by our wonderful friends and volunteers Alan, Brittany, Drew, Eloise, Lyall, Matt and Thomas.

Brittany, Drew, Eloise and Matt applied the last coat and then dismantled the scaffolding and even helped load it up.

With that, the construction of the viewing platform was finally complete!

Our heartfelt thanks to all of the absolutely wonderful individuals and organizations who helped make the platform a reality.  It has truly been a community effort and working together we have constructed a magnificent structure that will be an asset for the community for many years to come.

The next step is the formal naming and Opening of the platform, which you can read about here.



3 Comments leave one →
  1. Svantje Reiber permalink
    January 15, 2021 10:10 am

    This is a great collaboration project! Lovely to see the entire conceptual and construction process and how many hands were involved to create this little marvel.

  2. Pauline Glenda Lowe permalink
    January 12, 2021 7:38 pm

    Truly amazing Tom and Mahrukh. Your vision, sheer hard work, passion and tenacity has seen this project through from an idea to a truly wonderful structure. You can be justifiably proud of this achievement and full credit to all the people as individuals and corporates who worked with you to make it happen. Such a wonderful heritage!!!


  1. Opening and Blessing of Te Rite o Taranaki—11 December 2020 |

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