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Council at the helm

MARNIE HALLAHAN
Last updated 05:00 04/12/2012

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Concerns that Auckland Council stage-managed the contentious proposal to replace the Takapuna Beach Holiday Park with a National Ocean Watersports Centre have been confirmed.

Documents released to the North Shore Times under the Official Information Act also indicate the plan to locate the centre on reserve land in place of the holiday park came from the centre's main backers, Harbour Access Trust (HAT).

The Times requested the files after accusations from submitters of a lack of transparency regarding the Takapuna Beach Reserve Management Plan.

The plan received over 1200 submissions, many more than normal for such a process, reflecting the enormous public interest in the future of the reserve.

Within the documents received last week was evidence that council officers made plans to "convince" the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board to include only two options in their draft management plan.

Both relied on the closure of the beachfront campground, as Harbour Access Trust and Yachting NZ had confirmed the campground was their new preferred location.

This was despite overwhelming public sentiment to keep the holiday park, seen as part of Takapuna's history and one of the few beachfront campgrounds left in Auckland.

Previous plans to build the water sports centre as an underground bunker next to the Takapuna Boating Club were in their final stages after minimal public opposition.

But the plan was stymied in early April after consent to build additional hardstand storage on the northern part of the reserve was declined by an independent commissioner.

Documents show the council's Takapuna transformation project leader Catherine Edmeades met Bianca Hurrell, a representative from Harbour Access Trust, whose members include Takapuna Beach Cafe developer Dave Donaldson and property developer Peter Wall, on April 19.

Ms Hurrell and trust architect Tom Locke presented a new option for the National Ocean Watersports Centre's location.

The option relocated the centre and other marine-related activities on to land currently leased by the

Takapuna Beach Holiday Park.

Ms Edmeades wrote to council city transformation manager John Dunshea saying the park site was preferred by Yachting New Zealand and the trust.

Both organisations previously said the campground site was offered to them by Auckland Council.

But jurisdiction over the Takapuna Beach Reserve Management Plan lies with the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board and not with the council.

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Ms Edmeades proposed that a good approach to take with the local board was to "convince them to agree to canvassing two options".

Option one is a marine hub including the centre on the campground site.

Option two is the centre located on The Strand with a cluster of hardstands and boat trailer parking on the campground site.

Both options were dependent on the lease for the holiday park not being renewed upon its expiry date of March next year.

"This is the real push that we need to make with the board," Ms Edmeades says in correspondence received through the Official Information Act request.

She and her team then attended a workshop with the local board on May 1 which was "structured to try and achieve that outcome".

The Times was denied any information pertaining to this workshop, but understands there were graphics shown to "assist the council to visualise the new condition - with the caravan park gone".

A complaint was lodged with the Ombudsman regarding the withholding of documents by the council.

We believe that what was canvassed in the workshop is of public interest and overrides council officers and local board members' right to their "free and frank expression of opinions" being kept confidential - the reason given for withholding the documents.

The submission hearing into the Takapuna Beach Reserve Management Plan will reconvene on December 10 in front of independent commissioner Greg Hill and local board members Chris Darby, Dianne Hale, Kevin Schwass, Jan O'Conner and Joseph Bergin.

A decision on whether the panel will conduct all deliberations regarding the plan in public , as requested by a submitter, is also expected on this date.

ONLINE Links to previous stories for online from oldest to newest ■ stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/north-shore-times/7850253/Questions-raised-by-council-report ■ stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/north-shore-times/7861048/Fair-process-issue-raised-at-beach-hearing ■ stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-sport/7893320/Takapuna-reserve-should-cater-to-masses

- North Shore Times

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