Many obstacles overcome in battle for park

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 12:58 31/03/2014
Hoddy Estuary Park
PATRICK HAMILTON/NELSON MAIL
NEW PARK: Guests take their places during Sunday's opening of Hoddy Estuary Park.

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It's been a long time coming, but Hoddy Estuary Park is officially completed, and open to the public.

The sanctuary beside the Waimea Inlet, rescued more than a decade ago from housing development by a group of committed people who saw the value in it being a place for all, was opened at a private ceremony yesterday.

Funding has been so tight there was nothing left in the kitty to pay for a traffic management plan, which was a legal requirement for a public event, Hoddy Estuary Park chairman Simon Jones said.

The project started more than 15 years ago when the land was to be sold for housing when the Appleby Research Orchard closed. A group of people, steered by the vision of founding chairman Peter Owen with help from former Nelson lawyer Brian Smythe, formed a charitable trust to save the land as a public park.

Years of scraping through funding deadlines, with the help of benefactors and loan funding finally came to fruition yesterday.

Owen was left with little more to say other than it was now finished, it had been a long journey and it was now time to move on.

"It's simply a very beautiful place where one can go and find peace and serenity," he said.

HortResearch had agreed to the $150,000 price [plus GST] if the land off the Coastal Highway beside Research Orchard Rd was to be used for a public park. As a rural-residential lot it was valued then at $250,000.

By the year 2000 the trust found itself within a month of needing to raise $100,000 to settle the deal.

Nelson MP Nick Smith, who was trust patron and later its chairman for a time, lobbied the district council to rethink its stance of not supporting it financially.

A "mystery benefactor" came to the rescue just in time. An interest-free loan over three years was provided by Nelson businessman Tom Sturgess, and the district council later helped repay a portion of the loan before the deadline expired.

In 2005 the family of former leading pipfruit orchardist Peter Hoddy gave $44,000 to the trust to allow it to pay back the last part of the loan it used to buy a 4.5ha block of land.

Yesterday's ceremony acknowledged the family's input, plus whose financial contributions helped buy the land, and those who who had provided their professional time free of charge.

Jones said it was a significant day, and a "long time coming" for a dedicated group who had plodded along quietly in the background. Costly capital developments and "a list of things the council had given them" had been handled in stages and funded through charities such as Lotteries and community trusts. Many of the trees were donated.

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"We knew we would get there. There was no housing in the area when we started and now it's surrounded by development.

"We felt we had the foresight to just show that anyone can do this sort of thing," Jones said.

He said the park was special because it was one of the few places in the Waimea Estuary that was now publicly accessible.

"There are very few places you can enjoy that inner inlet feeling."

He said people were keen to have a connection formed to nearby Rabbit Island Rd, and support Owen's vision of "beads" of park along the estuary so that it might become part of a larger network.

The park has now been vested with the TDC as a reserve.

- Nelson

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