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Reprieve for Coastal Land

News Release: Reprieve for Coastal Land But Council Declines Further Consultation on Building

SOUTHERN ENVIRONMENTAL ASSOCIATION
Working to protect Wellington's unique environment

NEWS RELEASE
7.40 p.m., 23 NOVEMBER 2005

Following weeks of lobbying and protest action regarding the proposed privatisation of an area of publicly-owned coastal land at Owhiro Bay, the land was given a reprieve at tonight's Wellington City Council meeting. Mayor Kerry Prendergast unexpectedly announced at the beginning of the meeting that no further action would be taken on the sale proposal until public consultation had taken place.

As a result of the Southern Environmental Association's (SEA's) Official Information request following September's Council decisions regarding the land, SEA discovered last week that Council staff had given incorrect advice to Mayor Prendergast prior to the September Council decision. The erroneous advice was to the effect that the public had been consulted four years ago over a possible sale of the coastal land, when the South Coast Management Plan (SCMP) was being prepared. The Mayor had relied on this incorrect information in communications with the public, not being aware of the error.

Earlier this week SEA pointed out to the Mayor that in fact there was no public consultation on a possible sale of any of the coastal land during the SCMP process in 2001, and the sale possibility was actually added into the final version of the South Coast Management Plan without having been consulted on.

Mayor Prendergast advised tonight's Council meeting that the information received from the SEA had been investigated, and it had been found to be correct. It had been discovered that the proposed land sale had indeed not been consulted upon as part of the preparation of the SCMP.

"The Mayor's announcement is a reprieve for the land", says SEA secretary Robert Logan. "We want to give full credit to Kerry for checking the officers' advice, publicly acknowledging that the advice was incorrect, and consequently placing the sale proposal on hold. Good on her for doing the right thing. We understand from our local Councillors Celia Wade-Brown and Bryan Pepperell (who also want the land retained as part of the coastal reserve) that they too are very pleased with tonight's outcome."

SEA Chair June Epsom says that it looks "very hopeful now that the land will be kept permanently in public hands, based on the huge support in the community for retention of the land as part of the new reserve. In addition, the Owhiro Bay and Island Bay Residents' Associations, and the Southern Environmental Association, are all keen to retain the land as part of the public coastal reserve. The future for the park gateway suddenly looks a lot more promising," she says.

However, the Council voted tonight to reject further consultation on the proposed demolition of the former quarry building and the proposed "kiosk". The meeting rejected requests from representatives of local community and environmental organisations who spoke at the beginning of the meeting for further public consultation.

SEA Chair June Epsom says "decisions were made by a Council Committee on 22nd September regarding the building and kiosk proposals for the park entrance, only 3 days after the staff recommendations on these matters became public. In the normal course of events the officers' recommendations for their preferred options would have gone out for public consultation before final decisions were made. So the Council's rejection of further consultation is not a good precedent for future parks planning in Wellington City, and is a great disppointment to all those locals who had wanted further consultation on the building and alternative scenarios. "

Several members of the community (including 11 year old Sean Clark from Island Bay) addressed tonight's meeting. Sean requested that the land be kept as a park so that he would be able to enjoy it when he grew up. He presented hundreds of signed forms to the Mayor which he and others had collected this month during three weeks of Sunday afternoon protests at the entrance to the coastal park. The forms requested retention of the land in public hands, and further consultation over the future of buildings and facilities at the site.

ENDS

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