A Chance to Reimagine the Thames CBD

Mary Street - Best Street in NZ

The Create the Vibe Thames pedestrian area on Mary Street in Thames was declared the Best Street at the Keep New Zealand Beautiful Awards in Wellington on 17 February 2022.

The award, sponsored by Resene, recognises and celebrates a street in New Zealand that clearly stands out for its beauty, cleanliness, plantings and sense of community pride. See the Keep New Zealand Beautiful website for more information on the award.

Create the Vibe Thames

It's a shared civic hub space for people to gather on Mary Street at the corner with Pollen Street - right in the middle of things where most people already are and where a good town square should be. It is a trial project that we're adjusting as time passes and we see what works and based on the feedback we receive from users. The materials are temporary and can be shifted or removed easily. 

It is 90 per cent funded by Waka Kotahi/NZTA ($320,125.50) as part of its Innovating Streets pilot programme, and 10 per cent ($35,569.50) from Thames Ward ratepayers.

Create the Vibe Thames launch event - 19 March 2021

(Photo: launch event on 19 March 2021)

To create this shared pedestrian/cyclist space, Mary Street has been temporarily closed to vehicles at the intersection with Pollen Street for the half block running west to the service lanes towards Queen St. Access to the ANZ car park is from Mary St.

Improved road marking and signage at the Pollen and Queen St intersections have been put in place to improve everyone’s safety around the new layout.

Courtesy crossings at Mary/Pollen streets

The red strips painted across Mary and Pollen streets by the pedestrian area are courtesy crossings. 

Courtesy crossings are recognised in the Road Code and their use is common across New Zealand and other countries. They have formed part of the driving test for New Zealand for a number of years.

Pedestrians should stop, look and wait until it’s safe to cross. Drivers should allow pedestrians already on the street to continue their crossing, and if it’s safe to stop may allow people waiting on the kerb to cross the street.

Is the pedestrian area permanent?

The materials used are not permanent, can be easily removed and have about a two-year lifespan. As the pedestrian area was created in March 2021, we'd like to see how it works over a full summer with fewer COVID-19 restrictions in 2022-2003, so the Thames community has a good chance to make use of the space in fair weather.

The length of the trial public space and the Mary St closure will depend on how the space is used, its effects on traffic flow and the feedback we receive on it. It is a pilot and we’ll be monitoring use of the space and how the street closure affects vehicle traffic.

To submit feedback email customer.services@tcdc.govt.nz and put "Create the Vibe" in the subject line.

From late March 2023 we’ll be conducting further public engagement to seek feedback. Staff will report back to Thames Community Board by 30 June next year.

Can I book the space and the container for an event or activity?


The container HQ and Vibe space are available for community group use at no charge when it is not being used for Council purposes.

If you wish to book either the container HQ or the Vibe space, please complete the booking form, and either drop it in to us at

Thames-Coromandel District Council Office
Customer Services
515 Mackay Street Thames

or email customer.services@tcdc.govt.nz

Read the Create the Vibe Thames container HQ and space user guide for more information.

Download the Booking Form

Download the User Guide

If you have any questions on using the space call us on (07) 868 0200

  •       Bookings will be considered for community groups/not‐for‐profits for small meetings, or for a  maximum of two weeks for displays.
  •       An application form is to be completed with all details of the activity clearly stated.
  •       The container HQ and Vibe space is not to be used for commercial (i.e. no sales are permitted) or political purposes.
  •       Council reserves the right to accept or decline any booking.
  •       Fire and Emergency NZ, Police, and authorised officers of Council shall always have access to the facility.

What's in the Create the Vibe Thames space?

  • Seating and wheelchair accessible picnic tables
  • Shade
  • Greenery
  • Lighting
  • Bike racks and a bike repair station
  • Road art and designs from Thames artists on concrete planters
  • Murals, two of them by Thames artists

Rick Fisher and his container mural

(Above: Thames artist Rick Fisher (Ngāti Maru) and container HQ mural)

(Below: Kylie Gunn's mural on the service lane wall of the Stirling Sports building)

Kylie Gunn mural, Thames

Events held in the Create the Vibe civic space

Launch event

Beach Hop cruise to Thames

Planter painting day

Steampunk Festival

ANZAC Day Parade

Matariki display from St Francis School

Matariki event, with a hangi fundraising event for Thames High School

Buskers periodically 

Traffic changes:

Click the image below to open a larger version:

Alternative Route Poster

A close up look at the new layout:

Click to expand.

Case studies of similar trial projects in other places

Auckland - High Street

Yarraville, Melbourne Pop up Park – Similar project of closing a Street and using astroturf

Lower Tory St, Wellington

Bondi Junction 'pop-up' initiatives - 60% of retailers increased business

Waka Kotahi has more case studies which you can view here – they are all local and part of the ‘Innovating Streets’ programme.

Public consultation on this project

Create the Vibe Thames HQ

People in Thames came out in their hundreds to the Create the Vibe – Thames HQ at the corner of Mary and Pollen streets in September to share their thoughts with Council staff on how this central part of town could be reimagined as a safer, more people friendly space that locals and visitors will want to spend time in and come back to again and again.

Our project HQ had 484 visitors over the two weeks from 7 to 19 September. In addition, our Create the Vibe – Thames survey had 272 responses. One respondent was drawn at random and contacted with the $50 Pak ‘n’ Save voucher prize.

In late September the project team visited a class at Parawai School and three classes at Moanataiari School for co-design workshops, to get some of the young people of Thames involved in the future shape of their town.

Moanataiari has asked to continue to be involved in the project on an ongoing basis as it aligns with their local and community curriculum streams, and provides a real-life example of how a project progresses.  Our Council staff are liaising with Moanataiari in the coming weeks around how to best facilitate this.

The thoughts and ideas from these events were distilled into two concept designs, option 1: Partially close Mary Street; and option 2: one-way part of Mary Street. Our team went back to the Create the Vibe – Thames container HQ in November 2020 and asked the people of Thames to vote on their preferred option. We also had an online survey available for general public to vote. Of 251 voters, 74 per cent preferred the partial closure design, while 26 per cent voted to keep Mary Street one-way vehicle traffic.

Consultation and engagement on this pilot space is ongoing as we seek feedback from the community on how it's working. Submit feedback on the trial space to customer.services@tcdc.govt.nz and put "Mary Street trial public space" in the subject line.

Create the Vibe logo

FAQ - Rolling out the changes 

Q: When did construction begin?
A: Monday 22 February 7pm 2021, partially closing Mary Street for construction.

Q: Can I still drive down Mary St?
A: Yes, from Queen Street to access the Thames Civic Centre, Mobil Service Station, Thames Valley Insurance, Villager cafe, Computer Geeks & the ANZ carpark as Mary Street is only closed between the Villager café and Pollen Street. However, cars will not be able to access Pollen Street through Mary Street.(see map and detailed design above).

Q: What is Stage 1 and Stage 2?
A: Stage 1 will involve closing off Mary Street and about 70 per cent of the work will be completed including; AstroTurf, planters, the HQ container moved, modular seating, and new road lines. Stage 2 began in April 2021, and saw two new murals go in, wheelchair accessible picnic tables, bike racks and a bike repair station, and a public painting day for some of the concrete planters. 

Q: Will there be any signage to help cars get onto our main street and town centre?
A: Yes, there will be new ‘Town Centre’ signage to help direct cars on our main street and adjacent streets.

Q: Will there be any evaluation and monitoring of this trial?
A: Yes, traffic and pedestrian counts will be carried out both before and after the changes are put in place in order to evaluate how traffic flow is affected and how people use the space. We will also have a link for the general public to give us feedback on the space.

FAQ - Project background

Q: Who is funding this project?
A: Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is funding 90 per cent ($320,125.50), with the remaining 10 per cent ($35,569.50) from Thames Community Board.

Q: What consultation has been undertaken?
A: Nearly 500 people came into our Create the Vibe – Thames container HQ in September 2020 to have a chat with our staff about their ideas on how we can improve Thames town centre. We also held two co-design community workshops and visited two local schools.
The thoughts and ideas from these events were distilled into two concept designs. Our team went back to the Create the Vibe – Thames container HQ and asked the general public to vote on their preferred option. Of 251 voters, 74 per cent preferred the partial closure design, while 26 per cent voted to keep Mary Street one-way vehicle traffic.

Q: How long will this trial be for?
A: This will depend on public feedback and how well the space is used.

Q: What is Innovating streets?
A: Innovating Streets is a pilot programme is funding projects across New Zealand cities and towns aimed at creating people-friendly spaces.

Q: Why are the changes temporary installations?
A: This project is about working with the community and trialing positive changes to our streets. The improvements can be tested and refined before being made permanent if they’re found suitable. The benefit of a temporary change is that we can adjust or take it away if it doesn’t work without spending millions of dollars on a permanent solution.

Some background information:

The Thames+ Urban Development Strategy was drawn up in 2013 with the close involvement of the Thames community. A key finding of the strategy is that Thames currently lacks a "heart" - a space for community to gather, to hold events and invoke a sense of togetherness.

The Design Factory NZ at Wintec sent two groups of students to investigate the question 'How might the Thames CBD be reimagined into a safe, inviting and thriving area?' 

Both groups interviewed Council staff and elected members, people in the business community and residents and visitors. Both groups found that people think the Thames main street is "tired and unkempt" and "empty and outdated". 

One group advocated better lighting to make the CBD more attractive and the other suggested a "little big space" in the CBD where Council, business, youth and community could interact and collaborate. You can watch the students present their ideas on this video on the Design Factory NZ Facebook page: www.facebook.com/DesignFactoryNZ/videos/292717781910460 and you can download their final concepts on the right side of this page.