Panel sails close to the wind
You could taste the tension on Thursday as the hearings panel deliberated on the Takapuna Beach Reserve Management Plan, aka the plan to deprive the public of much of the best beachfront reserve in Auckland.
The panel is made up of five of the six Devonport-Takapuna Local Board members.
It will now report back to . . . the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board.
Elections are due later this year. This may well have been top of mind for those elected representatives, given the overwhelming opposition to the key proposal: Closing the 80-year-old Takapuna Beach Holiday Park and replacing it with Yachting New Zealand offices and small boat storage, grandly named the National Ocean Water Sports Centre.
Opponents have feared that entrenched positions by panel members would make a mockery of the whole submission process.
A betting person would have picked board, and panel, members Kevin Schwass, Chris Darby, Dianne Hale and Joseph Bergin as supporters, with Jan O'Connor as the sole opponent.
Surprise, surprise. That's how it played out.
It wasn't quite that simple. The four "pros" joined Ms O'Connor and chairman Greg Hill in rejecting the Yachting NZ office proposal, which effectively is what the "National Ocean Water Sports Centre" has become, saying commercial use wasn't appropriate. But those four still say boat storage and "limited" office space is acceptable for our reserve.
Sailors may need to debrief after a training session, was the argument. That seems like a bob each way and begs the question: Why not cross Hurstmere Rd and replay the day's action over a cold one in one of Mr Schwass' bars?
Thankfully, the sixth panel member and its chairman, is Mr Hill, an independent and experienced commissioner.
As such, his words need to be taken especially seriously.
He made it clear he considers the management plan has serious shortcomings in the way it has been drafted and needs a major overhaul. That really should be enough to stop this deeply-flawed proposal in its tracks. On the face of it, the recommendation that came out of Thursday's meeting will have been a blow for Yachting NZ. But it's loose and may well leave enough room for a sharp tack by the board: That talk of "debriefing facilities" is a red flag, for example.
As we have revealed in earlier stories, vested interests and Auckland Council officers tried to override due process and stack the odds in favour of a Yachting NZ office block to replace the mum-and-dad holiday park dating back to the 1930s.
But they failed to foresee the continuing crescendo of community outrage.
Board members take note.
North Shore Times