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Coastal, lakeside land for regional parks

Coastal, lakeside land for regional parks

Land by the coast, lakes and rivers will be at the top of the list when Environment Bay of Plenty starts to research properties for regional parks in the Bay of Plenty.

Last week, the regional council approved a policy that allows it to secure land for use by the public. The policy gives priority to coastal peninsulas and spits, harbour headlands, salt marshes and land by lakes, rivers and wetlands. Properties with unique natural or cultural attributes, like Maori fortifications, are next in line. However, as a general rule, suitable properties would have “features that are unique and help to define the special character of the region”, says strategic policy chairperson Lorraine Brill. Councillors will also carefully consider land that is under threat of development or unlikely to be available again later.

The Local Government Act 2002 has allowed Environment Bay of Plenty to take a larger role in regional parks. The council has set up a policy now because it does not want to miss out.

“Our urban areas are growing rapidly and prime land is becoming more and more valuable,” Mrs Brill explains. “Land is being snapped up very quickly, especially on the coast. And it will get more difficult as time goes on. So we need to act now to make sure we can secure the land we want for regional parks.”

Access to open spaces is important for the wellbeing of residents, both current and future, she says.

Mrs Brill hopes the region will eventually host a network of parks with different qualities and in different types of environment. They will be places people can go to relax, walk, picnic and enjoy being outside, she says.

Regional parks fill the niche between the national parks administered by the Department of Conservation and the reserves of district and city councils. “They are somewhere between your small local park or sports field and wilderness areas like the Urewera National Park.”

She points out that the Auckland Regional Council has an extensive network of parks that include coastal headlines and rolling farmland. They cover 37,000 ha of land in 21 locations.

Environment Bay of Plenty is open to partnerships with other agencies. It has already contributed to the purchase of the Papamoa Hills Cultural Heritage Park with Western Bay of Plenty District Council and Tauranga District Council.

Council staff will now prepare an implementation strategy. The Policy on Regional Parks is available from Environment Bay of Plenty offices in Tauranga, Rotorua and Whakatane or by calling 0800 ENV BOP (368 267). It is also on the website www.envbop.govt.nz.

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