Timaru's Miles of Tiles

Roads, Parking & Transport

Timaru’s miles of tiles…. a brief history, and what’s next

When were the tiles first installed?

Many residents will remember that in the 1990s, State Highway 1 was moved away from Stafford Street to its current location on Theodosia Street.

When that happened, upgrades were made to improve the look, feel and amenity of the city centre and renew its focus as a pedestrian-friendly, central shopping area.

The upgrades included the installation of footpath tiles, the first of which were installed on Sophia Street, Perth Street and outside the Council building at 2 King George Place. The Bay Hill, the Piazza area and Stafford Street were tiled next, then the wider city centre in the years following.

Why were the tiles chosen?

At the time, the tiles met the required standards for footpath surfacing and were widely used in town centres across New Zealand. They were considered a cost effective, practical and attractive option.

Similar tiles can still be found in many places today, including Whangarei, Wellington, Blenheim, Christchurch and Dunedin.

They’re so slippery! Why can’t Council just replace them?

We know that the tiles can be slippery, especially during winter and in wet weather. To help keep slipping hazards at bay, the tiles are frequently swept and receive a deep clean/scrub monthly.

In recent years, in response to public requests, we have upgraded the tiles in several areas with new ones that have much better slip resistance. Locations include:

1.       Corner of Sophia Street and Church Street – North East Side

2.       Corner of Sophia Street and Church Street – South East Side

3.       Corner of Church Street and Stafford Street – North West Side

4.       Corner of Strathallan Street and Stafford Street – North East Side

5.       Corner of Strathallan Street and The Terrace – North West Side

We prioritised these locations for upgrade based on slipping risk and known contributing factors such as sun/shade exposure, gradient and foot traffic. We know there is a public desire to undertake more upgrades, but we have a reason for holding off on further re-tiling in the city centre for now. Many of the existing tiles sit above ageing water and sewer pipes, and in places where electricity supply and other services need upgrading in the future. If we replaced the tiles above this infrastructure now, then it would all have to be removed later to upgrade that infrastructure – this would not be cost-effective for ratepayers.

The Land Transport Unit also has a limited budget, and it’s important that our spending of ratepayer money balances current needs with the longer term goals of our District. Council’s CityTown project is exploring ways that our city centre infrastructure might change in the future, so we are better off making sure that any future tile replacement is aligned with that – do it once, do it right!

So what’s next for the tiles?

Council’s CityTown project is exploring the regeneration of Timaru’s city centre, including the layout and function of future infrastructure. Options will be presented to the community for feedback in 2024, during the Long Term Plan consultation. Decisions on upgrade or maintenance of the tiles will be made after this, taking into account any areas impacted by the option chosen.

Last updated: 13 Oct 2022