A group that has worked for decades to preserve Little Shoal Bay in Northcote is furious at a decision by the Kaipatiki Local Board.
Tony Holman, chairman of Little Shoal Bay Preservation Society, claims the board acted unconstitutionally by voting last week to install adult outdoor exercise equipment worth $80,000 on grass beside Council Tce.
Mr Holman says the 1997 Little Shoal Bay/Le Roys Bush Reserves management plan states the grassy reserve is to be used for open, passive recreation and that the area is to be protected for “its unique environmental landscape”.
He says the plan was formed after extensive public consultation and the board is riding roughshod over that process. As a former North Shore City councillor and chair of its parks committee, he believes he knows the situation well.
“It was a public process, a statutory process. Submissions had a common theme – to keep the area natural. That’s what’s in the development plan and what they should refer to in any decisions.”
But board chair Lindsey Waugh says the equipment will be in a section of park zoned for active recreation. “The advice I have had from council officers is that there is no legal reason that prevents the installation of this equipment.”
She says the location was recommended by parks officers because it is on a popular walking route.
“Support and demand … came from a number of sources in the community,” says Mrs Waugh. “It was brought to the attention of the Birkenhead/Northcote Community Board by the community co-ordinators several years ago, because it responded to the [former] North Shore City Council’s Auckland Regional Physical Activity Strategy.
“The popularity of the … adult fitness equipment at Shepherds Park [Beach Haven] led to subsequent investment in other parts of the Kaipatiki Local Board area.”
The board used a discretionary fund pool for this and equipment in five other parks.
But Mr Holman says this situation differs from Beach Haven’s. “Shepherds Park is a different kettle of fish. It’s an area designated for active recreation. That’s fine there, it’s a permitted use. The whole area at Little Shoal Bay is supposed to be for open, passive recreation. As soon as you start to build on it you interfere with that.”
Mr Holman says the plan clearly says no buildings should be erected where the equipment is planned.
“Other than replacement, no new buildings are permitted on the reserve. The definition of a building under the Buildings Act … is movable or immovable, temporary or permanent … a structure … These are structures and therefore they are buildings and I think they recognise that because they know they have to go for a resource consent.”
Mrs Waugh disagrees: “Exercise equipment is not classified as a building and is therefore permitted. The existing children’s playground was installed after the management plan was written so would have been subject to the same constraints as this proposal.”
The board did acknowledge that the equipment is not specifically permitted in the management plan “as this is 15 years old and the demand for outdoor fitness equipment is relatively new.
“[But] … it is not precluded under the objectives and policies of the plan. Consideration has been given to the relevant policies and objectives of the plan whilst choosing the location for the equipment to minimise its potential impacts,” the summary said.
Mr Holman says a better site would be across the road between the tennis courts, toilets and bowling club, on an under-used carpark.
“It would be much safer there. Where they are suggesting currently is a 30-second dash from a playground and beside a road. It stands to reason children will be drawn to running across to the adult equipment, with its own set of dangers.”
Ms Waugh says the chosen spot is safe and contained by a retaining wall. “Traffic in this area travels very slowly due to the large number of speed bumps on this road. The speed limit is 30km/h.”
She says the board delivered 255 questionnaires to the community and said 37 per cent opposed the equipment from the 36 per cent returned.
Mr Holman’s society also surveyed locals and its results contrast with the board’s. Largely the same area was surveyed, with an 84 per cent negative response from the 26 per cent of people who returned the 300 questionnaires.
Mr Holman says his group shouldn’t have to ensure decisions are made that protect the bay.
“That should be the responsibility of the board, the council and their officers. Why are they spending $80,000 on this equipment anyway? Why aren’t they getting on with other things [that] are in the development plan that have been approved but not begun?”
Areas needing attention include drainage from the reserve’s higher part to the flood-prone lower area, and the poorly designed sand wall which causes sand in the bay to be washed out to sea.
“This is the largest bit of inner harbour shore coastline amenable to having a decent local beach so kids can build sandcastles, but they can’t.”
Mrs Waugh says the board’s long-term plan includes advocating for resanding and mangrove management at both Tui Beach [Beach Haven] and Little Shoal Bay.
She also takes issue with comments by local MP Jonathan Coleman that the area’s affluent residents can afford gym memberships and therefore do not want the equipment.
“That assumes the park is for the exclusive use of those who are fortunate enough to live next door,” she says, adding the community has given “wholehearted support for this initiative”.
That doesn’t sit well with Mr Holman who insists the site is wrong.
“I believe the board’s decision is unconstitutional. They will say it’s only a minor thing, but it’s not minor to be putting active stuff in part of the park labelled for passive recreation and open space.
Written by: Denise Montgomery
Photo/s by: Kellie Blizard
Reprinted with permission: http://www.theaucklander.co.nz/news/little-shoal-bay-exercise-on-reserve/1350454/