Council defers decision on Waiwhakareke reserve

LIBBY WILSON
Last updated 10:15 30/05/2014
heritage park
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University of Waikato Environment Research Institute assistants Rebecca Bylsma left, and Catherine Kirby look out over the Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park with Professor Bruce Clarkson, Dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering and head of the Centre for Biodiversity and Ecology Research.

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Council has taken a wait-and-see approach on the hot topic of what to do with a 5.1 hectare block of land bordering the Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park.

Waiwhakareke is New Zealand's largest inland restoration project.

Past proposals for the neighbouring land were to give it reserve status and include it in the park, or to sell it for subdivision.

But yesterday councillors followed a staff recommendation to do neither, and instead put it in a "holding pattern".

More "robust information" was needed before making the decision to grant reserve status or sell the land, general manager for community Lance Vervoort said. Selling the land now was "not likely to produce good yields" and further information would allow councillors to decide whether or not it was was worth selling it at all.

Those working on the park had made "quite significant progress" in finding productive financial alternatives to the sale in just two-and-a-half months, councillor Rob Pascoe said.

"In my view the financial benefits likely to be achieved for city ratepayers over time will be much greater than a quick sale of the 5.1ha at this time."

Councillors Dave Macpherson and Martin Gallagher proposed giving the 5.1ha area reserve status, but their idea failed to gather enough support.

Macpherson saw the park as essential "natural infrastructure" and Gallagher said it was a chance for council to show the kind of vision which set up the Hamilton Gardens.

Opposition came from councillor Garry Mallett, who said the existing reserve would not have been touched under his proposal. "We're actually not taking one square millimetre of the existing reserve." A subdivision would create chances for families to get reasonably-priced sections, he said.

Mallett's opposition was backed by several in the public gallery, including those with slogans like "Reduce debt - sell it".

During the public forum Russelle Knaap asked for the land to be zoned as residential because the council could clearly use the money from the sale.

The meeting also drew many Green party-badged supporters and professor Bruce Clarkson, who presented on behalf of the University of Waikato environmental research institute.

libby.wilson@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

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