Strong views on toilet site

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 07:14 26/03/2014
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Council staff inspecting a Marlborough Sounds site where a public toilet is proposed to be built had to step carefully to avoid human waste in the bushes, a hearing was told.

Council assets and services resource management adviser Jon Cunliffe told independent planning commissioner Jeremy Butler yesterday that he had had to "watch my step pretty carefully" when he went into the bush at the reserve in Ohingaroa Bay to look at where the toilet would be placed.

"I had to manoeuvre carefully on what was on the floor. I'm not saying it was representative, or happens frequently, it was just there."

Mr Butler is considering an application by the Marlborough District Council to build a public toilet in the reserve at Ohingaroa Bay. He visited the site on Monday.

First mooted about 17 years ago, the proposal is controversial, with some in the bay keenly supporting it and some just as vigorously opposing it.

There were 21 submissions, with five of them heard at the hearing yesterday.

There was disagreement between submitters at the hearing about how often people used the beach or nearby bushes as a toilet, with some arguing it was extremely common and so a public toilet was needed, and others arguing it was only used by freedom campers and occasionally others, but putting a toilet in would encourage freedom camping.

Only four self-contained campervans are allowed to stay in Ohingaroa Bay overnight under council freedom camping rules, but residents argued this was often breached without enforcement being possible in a remote area, and a public toilet would make that worse.

Resident Leicester Bull said the bay was used by kayakers and kayaking companies, as well as cycling groups, and all needed a public toilet.

"Ohingaroa Bay is already being used as a public toilet. It makes practical sense to ensure there is an approved containment facility within the bay . . . It is the council's responsibility to provide public amenities including public toilets in a public reserve."

However, residents Lindsay MacKay and Hamish Neale disputed that, saying there were other public toilets in nearby bays and they had seen no evidence of fouling.

Mr Neale said the world expert in the sort of toilet proposed for the site was a man working for the United States Forest Service, and the service's manual described how to get the best from that toilet, all of which was the opposite of what the council proposed to do.

"I consider a toilet of this type at this location is totally inappropriate for a residential area such as Ohingaroa Bay and these conclusions are backed up by research and recommendations from world experts on the subject."

Through lawyers, Mr Neale and Mr MacKay argued it was against the council's regional plan. A toilet in the conservation zone (the planning definition of the Ohingaroa Bay reserve) was a non-complying activity, and it was not an appropriate use of the land.

Mr MacKay said it breached the national coastal policy statement.

While council staff said the proposed toilet was the same as one used in Double Bay, which worked well, this was disputed by opponents, who said it smelt. They said the positive benefits of providing a toilet for passers-by would adversely affect residents in ways that would be more than minor.

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Mr Butler adjourned the hearing, and was to get written closing statements from the council by April 4 before closing the hearing and making a decision.

- The Marlborough Express

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