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Privatisation Plan for Wellington Coastal Land

Decision time tonight over Privatisation Plan for Wellington Coastal Land

27 September 2005

The Southern Environmental Association will be asking tonight's Wellington City Council meeting (at 6 p.m. at the Council Chambers, old Town Hall building, Wakefield Street) to abandon plans to sell off part prime public land at the new Owhiro Bay south coast reserve to private developers.

"The privatisation of this precious coastal land (for housing development) would be a disaster for the City" says SEA Chairperson June Epsom.

"The Council has worked WITH the community for the past 5 years to restore this area,so it would be an unbelievable shame if they vote tonight to ignore the community and turn their back on consultation" says June Epsom.

"The Council's own advisers have acknowledged that the community is OPPOSED to the land being sold.

"We are very concerned that some Councillors who in the past were traditionally on the community's side in fighting unpopular privatisations have now shifted ground, and seem to be supporting the privatisation plan," says SEA Chair June Epsom.

"The community fought long and hard to get this land as a public reserve, and now we find that some Councillors are wanting part of the land to be "gone by lunchtime"", says SEA Secretary Robert Logan. "People are hopping mad about this issue."

The proposed sale of the coastal land is also totally opposed by both Southern Ward Councillors, who include the Council's official Environment Spokesperson (Green Party Cr Celia Wade-Brown). However, both local Councillors were overseas when the privatisation recommendation was railroaded through last Thursday's Strategy and Policy Committee meeting, and Celia Wade-Brown is still overseas supporting an ill relative.

"It is incomprehensible that some Councillors from outside the Southern Ward have contemplated forcing through the privatisation of coastal open space land in our Ward, contrary to the views of the community and the local Councillors. We believe that these Councillors would not tolerate the Southern Ward Councillors coming in and selling off public open space areas in their Wards."

SEA Secretary Robert Logan says: :"All of the land at this site is needed to cater for the projected growth in visitor numbers over future decades."

Robert Logan says: "Some in the Council say the sale will fund a development of facilities at the site. However, in more wealthy parts of the City, parks facility development is funded from the Council's usual parks and reserves budget (rather than selling land off at those reserves), so we do not accept that a different practice should be adopted for the South Coast. In addition, there has been no public consultation over whether the community actually supports the specific package of proposals for the site (estimated at a cost of $700,000 without a full breakdown) which was proposed by Council officers on Monday 19 September 2005.

"It is also bizarre that the Council is looking at keeping its reclaimed land at the Owhiro Bay coastal reserve entrance (which is being unrelentingly eroded into the sea) while proposing to sell off a significant chunk of the publicly owned solid ground at the reserve entrance which is less likely to be eroded," says SEA secretary Robert Logan.

"If this land is sold to developers, it can never be got back. Buildings can be built or pulled down any time, but the coastal land can't come back to the community once it has been passed over to developers. We have to think ahead 100 years and plan properly for public reserve land on our Coast. Future generations will not thank Councillors for rushing ahead with a privatisation decision on this important land."

June Epsom and Robert Logan say that the SEA hopes that Wellington City Council will choose to keep all of the land in public hands, and go back to the community to consult over the specifics of visitor facilities for the site. "Why choose confrontation when all of these issues can be worked through with the community?" they say.


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