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Friends Oppose Local Board Bid to Control Regional Parks

For immediate release: Thursday 8 December, 2011

Friends Oppose Local Board Bid to Control Regional Parks

Friends of Regional Parks (FOR Parks) has joined ratepayer and resident associations and others across the region in opposing the move by some local boards to take control of “decision making and oversight” of regional parks in their wards. Local board control of regional parks would spell the end of the regional park network. They would become local parks subject to the interests, development priorities and budget decisions of local residents.

The regional park network was created to serve all the residents of the region, not merely those of their immediate ward. FOR Parks is calling for the mayor, councillors and CEO not to adopt any of the various local board recommendations to give them decision-making and oversight authority for regional parks.

FOR Parks welcomes a discussion on the way in which input from local residents and consultation with local boards can take place on matters concerning regional parks, and pledges its support for such a process. But it believes governance must remain with the mayor and council as only they can strike the necessary balance between the recreation, tourism and conservation purposes that must be met in the regional parks. FOR Parks considers that local boards should carry to council concerns and ideas from the local community. The local board for a particular area should have consultation rights which carry some weight, but not final decision making, as the parks must be managed as a unit for the whole of Auckland.

Bill Burrill, Chair, Friends of Regional Parks and former ARC Parks Committee chairman said “The Auckland Council was entrusted with an integrated network of 26 regional and specialty parks managed by a skilled team of park professionals and rangers for the benefit of the whole Auckland community. To achieve their objective of “the most liveable city” Auckland Council must retain governance and budget responsibility”.

Auckland’s regional park network has been created over 115 years since 1895 through acquisitions paid for by the residents of the Auckland region, as well as gifts and bequests from generous residents, volunteer groups and transfers from the Crown. The network represents the best of the region’s landscapes, remaining indigenous forests, stunning coastline, working farms, Auckland’s water catchment areas and a carefully selected combination of historical and ecological treasures managed regionally to provide conservation and recreation opportunities for the entire region. At the heart of the network is the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, which includes the Centennial Memorial Park purchased by Auckland residents to celebrate the city’s centenary in 1940.

All Aucklanders have paid for the parks through their rates. Many friends groups have donated substantial sums of money and volunteers have given many thousands of hours of work to provide amenities in the parks. Aucklanders identify with the regional parks as collectively “ours”. Only the mayor and council can guarantee the parks will continue to serve all the region’s residents effectively.

Key reasons for creating the single Auckland Council were to create efficiencies, allow unified policies across the region and to reduce competing parochial interests that blocked decision making serving the good of the region. It would be ironic if this single council resulted in an existing, effectively functioning, unified regional system being broken up, leaving the precious regional parks, the “jewel in the crown” of the Auckland region, in a worse condition than before amalgamation.

The regional parks network provides many efficiencies in the use of resources from how stock is moved among properties to best manage the land, to weed and pest control, ranger services and regionwide access to camping and baches. It is managed by a staff with specialist knowledge and resources that can be applied across the system. Local board governance would create a confused management structure with staff answering to multiple masters with different priorities and rules and no method of adjudicating among the competing interests for resources.

“Without the regional parks, Auckland cannot become the world’s most liveable city”, said Arnold Turner CMG, first Parks Committee chairman of the former Auckland Regional Authority.

FOR Parks and the Waitakere Ranges ratepayers and residents associations are joined in their opposition to the local boards’ proposals by the Waitakere Ranges Protection Society, Waitakere Forest and Bird, the Environmental Defence Society, the Strategic Property Advocacy Network, Manukau Harbour Restoration Society, NZ Horse Recreation Inc, Muriwai Environmental Action Community Trust, the Chinese Conservation Education Trust and friends groups associated with the regional park network including the Friends of Maungawhau, the Shakespear Open Sanctuary Society Inc, Friends of Whatipu, Friends of Arataki, Tawharanui Open Sanctuary Society Inc, the Mahurangi Magazine, Mahurangi Regional Park Volunteers, Friends of the Auckland Botanic Gardens, Protect Piha Heritage Society Inc and the Long Bay Okura Great Park Society.

ends

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