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Christmas comes early for park

LAUREN PRIESTLEY
Last updated 08:37 23/12/2013

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The sporting community gave a collective sigh of relief on December 17 when Auckland Council announced it will buy Colin Maiden Park.

It will purchase the St Johns sporting facility from the University of Auckland for NZ$60.7 million.

Documents released to the East & Bays Courier under the Official Information Act show closed door discussions on the proposal have been underway since February.

The council will take over the 20 hectare site on February 1.

The acquisition means sports clubs who call the park home now have the security of knowing their playing fields will not be built on.

Auckland University Cricket Club manager Richard Walker says the news couldn't be better. "It will remain as a sports park forever. Forever - what a wonderful word."

It goes further than the clubs themselves, Auckland University Rugby Football Club manager Steve Kidd says.

"The community use of the park is far more significant than the university use has ever been. The fact that we can remain here as well - we're just rapt."

The park hit headlines in March when the Draft Unitary Plan showed it was zoned for buildings up to six storeys high (East & Bays Courier, March 8). The council received 561 submissions from people up in arms about the park during the feedback process.

It was one of the most contentious issues in the plan, Orakei Local Board chairwoman Desley Simpson says. "It caused an incredible amount of concern in our community. It just flies in the face of reason. We were already understocked with sports fields and here was more potential to take what we had away."

The board had numerous meetings with councillors to persuade them of the park's importance.

The acquisition was an unexpected cost and had to be factored into the draft Annual Plan for next year, Ms Simpson says.

"My first reaction was one of incredible relief. It wasn't a walk in the park.

"It wasn't just a sensible opportunity, it was also based on extremely strong public feedback."

The university will use funds from the sale in its creation of a new campus at Newmarket.

Correspondence supplied under the Official Information Act shows the council commissioned concept plans for Colin Maiden Park and surrounding land in February with the possibility of a sports precinct in mind. The cost of consultation was not disclosed.

Mayor Len Brown says this is one of the most significant urban park acquisitions in Auckland's history. "We can all be proud that the last major piece of private open space on the isthmus has been retained for the people of Auckland."

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- East And Bays Courier

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