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Information Surfaces About Wgtn Land Sale

22 November 2005

Information Surfaces Re WCC Staff Proposal To Sell Off Coastal Land, And Owhiro Bay Residents Urge Retention Of Land

This information relates to the Wellington CIty Council meeting scheduled for Wednesday 23 November 2005 which will reconsider the controversial staff proposal to sell off public coastal land on Wellington's South Coast at Owhiro Bay for private housing development.

Information just released by the Council under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act raises several issues regarding the sale proposal.

Southern Ward Councillor Celia Wade-Brown (WCC's Environment Spokesperson) has placed the sale issue on the Council's Agenda for Wednesday 23rd November, hoping that fellow Councillors will vote to reverse the sale decision passed in September while she was out of the country.

SEA Chair June Epsom says many in the community were thrilled with the Council when it decided to purchase the whole area for a coastal reserve years ago after a long battle, but very surprised and upset when Council staff recently recommended sale of the part of the land at the very entrance to the new reserve for private housing development.

Last week a large meeting of the Owhiro Bay Residents' Association voted almost unanimously for the land to be retained.

The OIA release reveals that:

a.. On 27 September 2005 (before the Council voted on the sale issue), Mayor Kerry Prendergast's office asked staff to outline the consultation process for the proposed land sale after being "inundated" with submissions to not sell the land. In response, staff incorrectly advised the Mayor to the effect that the possibility of sale had been consulted on as part of the South Coast Management Plan process some years ago.

In fact, the advice given to the Mayor appears to have been incorrect. The possibility of sale was not included in the documentation (Draft Management Plan dated May 2001) which was publicly consulted on, and the public feedback reported to Councillors on 30 July 2001 in a "final decisions" report did not identify any requests or support for selling part of the ex-quarry land.

"We are worried that Kerry was (by a simple mistake) led to believe that the sale proposal had gone through public consultation as part of the SCMP process, when in fact it had not been consulted on at that time" says SEA Chair June Epsom.

"The mistaken advice may have had a crucial impact on the September vote on this issue." SEA has drawn the Mayor's attention to the error. In addition, Southern Ward Councillor Bryan Pepperell has requested the Council's Chief Operating Officer to ascertain how the SCMP came to be amended at the last minute to include the possibility of sale despite the lack of consultation, and without any apparent authorisation from the Council.

a.. Council officers also correctly advised Mayor Prendergast in September 2005 that the Owhiro Bay Residents' Association had voted in support of the sale of the land on 25 February 2004. Kerry specifically referred to this when she spoke in favour of selling the coastal land at the Council meeting on 27 September.

However, the Owhiro Bay Residents' Association discussed the sale issue again on 16 November 2005, and voted almost unanimously to support retaining the land as part of the coastal reserve. Veteran South Coast campaigner Peter Frater says he is hopeful that the Owhiro Bay Residents' Association's decision will help to persuade the Council to retain the land.

b.. Council staff were planning to recommend the land sale as early as May 2004, at which stage they anticipated possible community opposition to the coastal land sale plan as a "risk". A staff "Communications/Marketing Project Brief" prepared at that time proposed "management of media" as one of the solutions to "mitigate" such opposition.

c.. The Quarry Closure Management Plan (cited by several Councillors in September to support sale of the land) actually contains no suggestion that any of the land might ever be sold into private hands.

d.. However, the "restoration" (rather than sale) of the entrance area is specifically included (on page 19) as Stage 5 of the Quarry Closure Management Plan. The community has argued that the upgrade of the park gateway area should be treated as part of the quarry rehabilitation project, rather than being treated and funded separately through a land sale.

e.. The Council file does not include any formal engineering report regarding the erosion of the reclaimed area in front of the land which is proposed for sale. The only engineering information on the Council's file is an 11-line hand-written note recording a Council officer's discussion with an engineer at Beca Carter.

Locals and environmentalists are concerned that the sea will continue to gradually whittle away the reclaimed area over future decades, and it would therefore be unwise to sell off part of the solid ground at the site as staff have recommended.

f.. On 1 June 2005, a person whose identity has been withheld for privacy reasons emailed Council staff and inquired about the "process and timeline (especially in respect to the two Council owned rural zoned sections)". This has raised concern as to whether anyone has had their eyes on the coastal land for some time as a development opportunity.

Consultation issue: summary As decision time looms at Wednesday evening's Council meeting, the following facts have come to light:

a.. The sale proposal was never part of the Council's official Quarry Closure Management Plan.

b.. The sale proposal was never consulted upon as part of the Council's South Coast Management Plan process.

c.. The sale proposal was not included in the Council's questionnaire form in the consultation on the car park area carried out in 2004.

d.. There are no community organisations supporting sale of the land.

e.. Local community organisations are strongly opposed to the land being sold: the Owhiro Bay Residents' Association, Island Bay Residents' Association, and Southern Environmental Association.

f.. The community appears happy for enhancement work at the gateway area to be funded out of normal Council parks and reserves funding, in the same manner as enhancement along the rest of the coast is funded, even if the work is spread over several years.

There is no big push from the community for huge amounts of Council money to be spent at the geatway immediately, provided that action is taken to deal with dust and irresponsible drivers. Many people are now hopeful that (especially following the Owhiro Bay Residents' Association's very clear vote), the Council will reconsider the land sale and save the land for permanent public use in partnership with the community.

"The Council has done a lot of good work at the Owhiro Bay coastal reserve in partnership with the community over recent years, so it would be a tragedy if they now rejected the advice from our local Councillors and proceeded with a very unpopular land sale decision," says the SEA.


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