Millions paid for park - but years later it is still undeveloped
Two large blocks of land purchased by council for millions of dollars to improve South Head's regional park are yet to be developed.
The 247 hectare Te Rau Puriri Regional Park on South Head Rd was purchased by the former Auckland Regional Council in 2005.
A 15.2ha property along the same road was purchased in March 2013 and another 78ha property was purchased in 2014.
Auckland Council regional parks manager Richard Hollier said this land would eventually form the total area of the regional park.
Rodney Local Board deputy chairman Phelan Pirrie said cuts to the regional parks team's budget meant this land sat, untouched.
"There's no money to do it, that's the problem. I think it's crazy. We have spent millions of dollars buying these parks," he said.
Te Rau Puriri had no facilities, and no signs to show how to access the beach. It had an Auckland Council regional park sign.
"I'm not angry about it, I'm just disappointed that we purchase regional parks and then don't provide the budget to develop them," Pirrie said.
Regional parks were allocated $9,729,760 for the financial year of 2016/2017. A small increase from the 2015/2016 budget of $9,522,163.
These totals excluded capital funding for asset renewals and new development works. They also excluded building maintenance budgets.
Hollier said the budget was prioritised to address growth and demand pressures. He said there was no "significant capital funding" identified for this development for the next two years.
With large visitor numbers putting pressure on regional parks at Piha and Muriwai, Pirrie said other parks in the area needed to be developed to spread the load.
Waitakere Ranges Local Board member Sandra Coney said Kitekite Falls was one of the places most under pressure by people at Piha.
"People aren't necessarily enjoying the place. It's a backdrop for them to take a picture to put on Facebook," she said.
Environmental issues were also occurring at Piha with people "knocking off native plants" and damage happening on the edge of streams "where you can see all the vegetation stripped back and it's down to the bare earth".
"There is actually really quite serious environmental degradation going on in these places as well as the loss of what we were trying to protect for people's experiences," Coney said.
Muriwai residents had also complained about dogs roaming at the gannet colony and tourists' littering, straying from walkways and trampling across the sand dunes. Dune restoration work had been undertaken at Muriwai to halt erosion.
Muriwai attracted more than 1 million visitors per year, Auckland Council's website said.
Coney said budget cuts affected the number of rangers on the ground at regional parks and work was given to contractors who do not have a relationship with the people visiting.
"Everyone is trying to do the same with less money and they aren't actually able to do the same with less money," she said.
"In my view, the level of service has dropped."
Pirrie said planning needed to begin now for Te Rau Puriri as the area had the potential to become a "wonderful" park.
Pirrie said the 15.2ha property the council purchased for $1.5m was previously a prawn farm and had the potential to be a great campsite, which was needed in the area. He said the ponds could be turned into a wetland reserve for birds.
"They will be great places to go and visit."
The 78ha property could become a campsite, Pirrie said.
"Here's an area that could be developed into an amazing campground and it's just sitting there. No-one sees it," he said.
However, Coney who was chairperson for the parks committee when Te Rau Puriri was purchased, said they paid approximately $4.5m to $5m for it and is "perfectly happy" it hasn't been developed.
"We were buying for the future, we were buying land that would be there for future generations," she said.
"The really difficult thing with parks is the land getting so expensive that you can't acquire it. So if you acquire it and just sit on it, in 10-20 years time, you can do the development."
Hollier said the purchase price for the 78ha property remains confidential.
The park would need to go through a planning process which would include development of a concept plan, Hollier said.
That would be followed by a variation to the Regional Parks Management Plan.
From there, council would provide an opportunity for public input to state local issues they would like considered through the plan change. Once a draft plan had been prepared the public would give feedback.
However, Hollier said no time frames had been set and it was likely that it would not be completed for several years.