The night Takapuna 'lost its soul'

MARNIE HALLAHAN
Last updated 08:21 15/03/2013

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Overwhelming public support has not saved Takapuna Beach's iconic campground.

But Auckland Council's plan to allow a high performance yachting centre to be built on part of the campground site is also not guaranteed.

"Tonight Takapuna has lost its soul," said Dave Booth, founder of the Save Takapuna Beach Holiday Park Facebook page, which has amassed almost 8000 likes.

Mr Booth was one of hundreds of submitters who opposed council's plan to close down the campground and gift a portion of the land for a National Ocean Watersports Center, housing boat storage and offices for 27 Yachting New Zealand staff.

A hearings panel including independent commissioner Greg Hill and Devonport Takapuna Local Board members Chris Darby, Jan O'Connor, Kevin Schwass, Dianne Hale and Joseph Bergin was charged with overseeing the public consultation of the draft Takapuna Beach Reserve Management Plan.

The panel deliberated in public last night at the request of submitters who aired concerns of a lack of transparency within the council process.

And despite more than 1200 submissions being received on the plan, most of which centered on the fate of the campground and the NOWSC proposal, the views of submitters were hardly referred to during deliberations.

The submission process showed overwhelming support for the retention of the 80-year old campground.

However only one panel member, Ms O'Connor , spoke in favour of keeping the campground, saying that the submissions clearly showed that it is the will of the community.

"I live in Takapuna and I keep my ears to the ground and I have not heard one person say get rid of the holiday camp," she said.

The remaining panel members justified the campground's closure on the fact that 10 years ago a decision was made to assign it a non-renewable lease.

A number of submissions gave evidence of the continuing relevance of the holiday park and it being the "last bastion of the kiwi camping tradition in Auckland".

Geoff Ensor of the New Zealand Tourism Industry Association estimates that the 28,000 visitors to the holiday park bring an estimated $5 million to $7m per year into the local economy.

But those in favour of the keeping the campground won't be the only ones upset by the outcome of last night's deliberations.

Panel members agreed that providing "commercial" office space for Yachting NZ staff was not an appropriate use of reserve land.

They also decided against formally including the provision for 1200 square metres of covered boat storage and a 500-sqm hardstand storage facility in the management plan, both integral parts of the NOWSC proposal.

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However including a provision for the future development of some form of storage facility and high performance debriefing room was agreed upon.

The $8.5 million government backed NOWSC project was originally sited next to the Takapuna Boating Club on The Strand and was to be mostly underground.

In July last year the draft management plan relocating the watersports centre to the campground site was made public.

Since then there have been claims of "behind closed door" dealings between Auckland Council and those involved with the NOWSC.

Takapuna Beach Holiday Park owners and groups like the Takapuna Boating Club, and Waka Ama say they were completely left out of the consultation process.

However council officers engaged in consultation with Yachting New Zealand and project backers the Harbour Access Trust from very early on in the draft plan process.

The National Ocean Watersports Centre has been given $3 million in funding from both the Ministry of Sports and Recreation and Auckland Council.

Any remaining costs, expected to be around $2 million are to be met by the project's principal backer the Harbour Access Trust.

HAT trustees include property developer Peter Wall and Takapuna Beach Business Association chairman Dave Donaldson.

Documents released to the North Shore Times under the Official Information Act revealed that Auckland Council's Takapuna Transformation project leader Catherine Edmeades made plans to "convince" the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board to only include two options in the draft plan, both of which included the NOWSC being situated on part of the campground site.

"Both of these options are dependent on the lease for the holiday park not being renewed.... This is the real push we need to make with the board," said Mrs Edmeades.

The hearings panel will now finalise their recommendations which will be presented to the Devonport-Takapuna Local board .

The local board have final jurisdiction regarding the future use of Takapuna's beachfront reserve.

All but one local board member was part of the hearings panel.

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