Town Belt Bill amended as precaution against sales

OLIVIA WANNAN
Last updated 05:00 03/04/2014

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Wellington's Town Belt Bill had a fiery sendoff before being put out to public submission.

Last night the full city council voted unanimously to approve the bill - which would ensure the green space encircling the city is protected and enhanced - for consultation.

A contentious section, offering the option for the council to negotiate compensation for Town Belt land seized for public projects, was removed, on a 9-6 vote.

Opponents of the section, including councillors Helene Ritchie and Iona Pannett, argued that future councils could use the option to sell Town Belt land.

Supporters countered that, by allowing negotiation, the council was making the best of a bad situation when central government inevitably used its powers to seize parts of the belt.

The Town Belt Bill charges the council to manage the 520 hectares and develop its biodiversity. The city council will be forbidden to remove areas, except for land seized by government, and the amount of belt property available for lease will drop from 40ha at present to 8ha.

The bill has strong public support, including from Friends of the Town Belt, which worked with the council for years to protect the asset and develop the legislation.

However, councillor Andy Foster said some tasks the bill compelled the council to undertake would be more unpopular, including retaking belt land that residents had already taken over.

After consultation, the bill would be returned for a final debate and vote.

Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson, the parliamentary sponsor of the legislation, would then introduce it to a select committee, to ultimately be turned into law.

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- The Dominion Post

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