Fair process issue raised at beach hearing

KEEN INTEREST: From left, Businessman Dave Donaldson,  Yachting NZ chief executive David Abercrombie,  and property developer Peter Wall at the hearing.
KEEN INTEREST: From left, Businessman Dave Donaldson, Yachting NZ chief executive David Abercrombie, and property developer Peter Wall at the hearing.

Questions of fair process were again raised as the submissions hearing for the Takapuna Beach Reserve Management Plan began yesterday.

Independent commissioner Greg Hill began the hearing by defending the commitment of local board members to having an open mind during the hearing process despite concerns that some might have conflicts of interest.

Mr Hill was brought on as chairman of the panel at the request of the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board which felt it was important to have a fresh set of eyes on the hearing panel, along with local board members.

During the hearing he echoed statements made by board chairman Chris Darby that "nothing is set in concrete", saying that "at this stage all we have is a draft plan".

Almost 95 per cent of the 1200 submissions received centred on the removal of the Takapuna Beach Holiday Park and the proposal to build a high performance water sports facility housing Yachting New Zealand offices and boat storage on part of the site.

Yachting NZ chief executive David Abercrombie, Takapuna businessmen Dave Donaldson and Peter Wall, members of the Harbour Access Trust and backers of the National Ocean Watersports Centre were front row at the hearing.

The 1203 submissions were summarised in a report by Auckland Council officer Kim Brown.

Clarification was sought by Mr Hill on how the Marine Hub options put forward in the plan were established.

Report co-author Catherine Hamilton says that stakeholders involved in the existing activities like the Takapuna Boating Club and Waka Ama were consulted as well as those who desired to be accommodated like Yachting NZ and those involved with the national watersports centre.

The first submitters to speak were Takapuna Beach Holiday Park owners Marius Rothmann and Rick Mason.

They said that despite their very evident interests in plans for the reserve they were not consulted at any point during its development stage.

"There is mention of discussion with stakeholders but we heard nothing from the council even though we regularly chased them.

"We heard nothing until we were called to a meeting a few days before the draft plan was released to see that the holiday park wasn't included," Mr Mason says.

He says this lack of consultation meant that information provided in the draft plan regarding the campground was incorrect and reflected badly on their business.

"I found it shocking for the council to deride a successful business and those facts they got wrong coerce people to think a certain way about the holiday park."

It was ascertained through questions to Ms Brown that council officers preparing the plan had done no research on the current recreation uses of Takapuna Beach.

Oral submissions will be heard over three days in front of the hearings panel.

Mr Hill and local board members Mr Darby, Dianne Hale, Jan O'Connor, Joseph Bergin and Kevin Schwass will then make recommendations taking into account all submissions.

The proposals will come back to the Devonport Takapuna Local Board which has jurisdiction over the reserve management plan and will make the final decisions.

North Shore Times