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Save The Maitai Goes To The Ministers

Protecting the future of the Maitai Valley has been taken to the highest level, with Save the Maitai supporters appealing for support from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the Minister for the Environment David Parker.

Spokesperson Peter Taylor said Save the Maitai Inc (STM) is concerned the zone change needed for the development of hundreds of houses in the Kaka Valley could be fast tracked, which would require ministerial approval.

“We have written to all the relevant cabinet ministers to make sure they are aware of the huge value Nelsonians place on this special area, to point out its unique attributes and to let them know 10,000 people have signed our petition against re-zoning,” Taylor said. “We’ve also asked government to support the concept of a regional park – this would protect the land in perpetuity and ensure future generations don’t have to fight the battle to save the Maitai-Kaka Valley ever again.”

Taylor said the letter to ministers points out that the Maitai is Nelson’s premium recreation and leisure area used for well-being, gatherings, sports and family recreation: “We told them the valley is unique in that it is literally ‘on the doorstep’ of Nelson; and it makes Nelson unique as well - other cities in the world would pay millions to have such an asset so close to their CBD.”

Taylor said it was important that David Parker was made aware that the $3.7 million funding committed to ‘Project Mahitahi’ to improve the health of the river catchment needed to be backed up by keeping Kaka Valley zoned rural-residential as it is currently, or better still by purchasing the land for Nelson's first regional park.

“As we have been out in the community with this campaign many people have asked us what else could be done with the land besides a massive subdivision?” Taylor said. “The answer exists in the location - Kaka Valley is immediately adjacent to the popular Botanical Hill reserve (which includes the Centre of New Zealand lookout), the Maitai Esplanade and Branford Park, or it could even be linked upriver with Groom Creek and the Waahi Taakaro Golf Course. Imagine if this land was combined into one tranquil greenspace for everyone’s well-being, and for the recreation of Nelsonians and visitors alike.”

STM’s letter also went to the Minister of Housing Megan Woods, and included the Council research into Nelson’s housing needs.

“We are acutely aware of Nelson’s housing issues, and support sustainable growth for the city, intensification of the existing urban areas, and developments in other more appropriate areas. However, the Council’s 2019 Future Development Strategy indicates that this subdivision is not needed to meet Nelson’s projected housing demand over the coming three decades,” Taylor said. “We commend Council for its recent moves on urban intensification and would like to see developers given more encouragement to make refitting existing buildings viable.”

Taylor said he was hopeful that given the large scale community opposition to this subdivision, the ministers would see how inappropriate it would be to allow the rezoning to proceed, either under the COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Act 2020, or under Schedule 1 of the RMA, or via the ‘streamlined planning process’.

Alongside the letter to the Ministers, Save the Maitai has written to Mayor Rachel Reese regarding the regional park concept, asking her to convene a meeting of all stakeholders, including the developers. Taylor said recent comments from the Mayor gave him cause for hope.

She stated in a media release on the initial post-Covid funding: “The Maitai - Mahitahi River flows through the lives of Nelsonians, it is entwined with who we are and how we live in this city. What could be better than the people of Nelson working on a project to give this beautiful river even greater care and attention.”

Taylor said he understood the Mayor had good working relationships with the Kaka Valley developers, iwi and other community groups and agencies involved in the management of land and water in the Maitai-Kaka valley.

“Council and central government have declared Climate Emergencies, indicating a willingness to look at reassessing our priorities,” Taylor said. “We are appealing to the Mayor for leadership to explore the future use of Kaka Valley and its potential acquisition and incorporation into the existing Maitai Valley reserve area, with specific focus on the development of a regional park.”

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