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Prominent Nelsonians Oppose Maitai Valley Subdivision

Olympic runner Rod Dixon, respected health advocate Annette Milligan and well-known actor Mark Hadlow have expressed their opposition to an application for a private plan change in the Maitai-Kaka Valley. The private plan change would allow as many as 550 houses to be built in the valley adjoining Branford Park and opposite Dennes Hole and the cricket ground. Last week the Mahitahi-Bayview developers announced that the private plan change seeking to have the Maitai-Kaka Valley’s zoning changed from rural to residential would be lodged with NCC on April 16.

Rod Dixon, an Olympic medallist and winner of the New York City Marathon, has spoken out about against the proposed subdivision. ‘The much-loved rural Maitai valley on Nelson’s doorstep is enjoyed by thousands of people for such a range of recreation. The Council’s own figures show that housing needs for the next 25 years can be met without building a subdivision in the Maitai so why on earth sacrifice this jewel in Nelson’s crown? 11,000 people have already signed the petition - the Council needs to listen to the strong opposition.’

Rod grew up in Tahunanui and later, Nelson South, and he remembers the vast green spaces and countryside of the Maitai was much treasured by his family.

'We all loved going to the swimming holes - Black Hole was our favourite - and picnicking in the valley - the annual Nelson Sunday Schools Picnic at the Maitai Camp reserve was the best of all. Us kids would bike and run and play barefoot for hours, surrounded by the green hills. You can’t put a price on those childhood experiences. As an adult I spent countless hours running in the Maitai. It's literally just five minutes from the CBD - incredible. It’s exactly these sorts of simple joys, accessible to all, that makes us the envy of the world.'

Having spent a lot of years in the USA creating the KiDSMARATHON school program, Rod says that New Zealand can learn a lot from New York City.

'Between 1830 and 1860 the population tripled and the demand for housing was acute. But the council, business people and environmentalists came together with great foresight to protect an area of beautiful land for the benefit of the people for all time. The value of what Central Park provides the city’s residents far outweighs the housing that might have been built on the site. The Maitai valley is the same.’

Dixon says ‘The developers are saying all the usual things and putting their PR experts’ spin on it all. But the bottom line is, this beautiful rural haven on Nelson’s doorstep would become just another suburb, the developers would pocket their tens of millions and move on and the damage will have been irrevocably done.’

Annette Milligan, recently awarded a NZ Order of Merit for her thirty years of service to healthcare, has also expressed concern. ‘When you climb the hills around Nelson you see housing in so many valleys - the Brook, Ngawhatu, Marsden, York, Todds. And large-scale building is happening in Toi Toi, Atawhai, Whakatu, Saxton...houses and bulldozers are everywhere. The Maitai is the last unspoilt valley and it’s right at our back door. Can we not protect this one last valley for recreation? How many cities here and around the world would gladly give a fortune for what we’ve already got?’

Annette says she knows there will be plenty said by the developers about mitigating the impact of the subdivision but she says she is 'far too old and far too cynical for those words. If the subdivision goes in, what we have now will be lost forever. The car movements alone will be the end of what thousands of us treasure about the Maitai. Sit in the valley, close your eyes and imagine what it would be like with 3,000 traffic movements a day. The idyllic, tranquil qualities of the Maitai which have been treasured for generations would be destroyed and stolen from all the generations to come.’

Actor Mark Hadlow, a NZ Order of Merit for services to the arts recipient and a commissioned lieutenant in the Royal NZ Naval Volunteer Reserve, has also criticised the application. 'Go to the Maitai and you'll see people of all ages walking, biking, running, swimming and picnicking in this beautiful rural valley. The Council needs to protect the environmental heritage of the Maitai for future Nelson and New Zealand generations to cherish and enjoy.'.

The three notable Nelsonians add their voices to already very significant community opposition, with the Save the Maitai petition against the rezoning now at 11,000 signatures.

A spokesperson, Monica Pausina, says the group intends to fight the proposed subdivision every step of the way, but their preference is for the City Council to respect the wishes of the community and their own public consultations and to decline the plan change request.

Details on the housing alternatives to the subdivision and other information can be found at www.savethemaitai.co.nz

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