Chelsea park may be scapped

AT RISK: Neil Darroch is worried the opportunity for a public park at the picturesque Chelsea Estate will slip away.

Court action could kill plans for a $20 million public park near the Chelsea Sugar Refinery.

The Auckland Regional Council and New Zealand Historic Places Trust are appealing a district plan change allowing development at the refinery, in the Environment Court.

In response the refinery has put off plans to sell 37 hectares of its prime seaside section to the Chelsea Park Trust.

That sale was conditional on it being allowed to put up to 528 units on another 15 hectares, which include its iconic pink buildings.

Chelsea Park Trust spokesman Neil Darroch says the appeals are likely to crush any chance of a park at Chelsea.

The refinery is sick of delays and is ready to pull out of the conditional purchase agreement, he says.

“If this goes to a hearing it is very likely Chelsea will pull out of the deal. They’ve had enough. It’s taken so long and been so costly.”

It’s unlikely there will be another chance to turn land at Chelsea into a public park if this deal falls through, Mr Darroch says.

“If there ever is another chance to purchase, it will probably be unaffordable.

“This is a sad day.”

PROPOSED PARK: The Chelsea Sugar Refinery wants to sell 37 hectares of its land for a public park and keep another 15 hectares for redevelopment.

It’s disappointing the appeals have been lodged, says Chelsea’s New Zealand general manager Bernard Duignan.

If they hadn’t, the park sale would almost certainly have gone ahead, he says.

“We’re very disappointed. I wouldn’t have seen any other impediments to the sale.”

The historic places trust says it is appealing the district plan change to help save Chelsea Estate for North Shore residents.

It is concerned about the decision to allow up to 528 units on the land, which it sees as an important industrial heritage site.

Development that intense could have a huge impact on the landscape, it says.

When contacted by the North Shore Times, a regional council spokesperson said talks on its appeal are under way.

The council hopes to reach a compromise that would see it withdraw court action.

Long-serving Harbour ward councillor and Chelsea park supporter Tony Holman has spoken out against the appeals.

The objections aren’t worth jeopardising a park that would be a huge asset for the North Shore, he says.

“There may be some things within the decision that are concerning but the time for dealing with them is in the future.
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“We have an opportunity to buy a magnificent park. Losing it would be an absolute disaster for the whole region.”

The refinery agreed to sell 37 hectares of its prime Birkenhead seaside section to the Chelsea Park Trust for $20 million in 2005.

The North Shore City Council agreed to pay $10m of that, with the ASB Charitable Trust, regional council and the government providing the rest.

The only condition was that the refinery be granted a district plan change rezoning 15 hectares of its land for future residential use.

That was granted by independent commissioners last year despite dozens of objections from residents.

No court date has been set for the appeals by the regional council and historic places.

Credits

Photo/s by: BEN WATSON/North Shore Times
Reprinted with permission: Auckland Now – North Shore Times

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