Bach fate still hangs in balance

TARYN UTIGER
Last updated 05:00 18/08/2014

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The future of Tongaporutu's iconic baches has been left out of a council plan that spans the next decade.

New Plymouth District Council has released the draft Tongaporutu Management Plan, but the 65-page document does nothing to address the near lapsing leases for the colourful collection of baches.

"Any decision regarding whether or not to grant new leases for the baches when the current leases expire must be addressed separately to the management plan," the lengthy document reads.

The issue of the baches, which are on council land, has long been a contentious one.

When 30-year leases expired in 2005, the council received a record number of submissions and decided to issue new 10-year leases.

Shortly after, Victor Gibbs, a Tongaporutu resident who wanted the baches gone, was granted a judicial review.

Gibbs eventually lost his battle with the council and the batch owners were allowed to keep their 10-year leases.

However, the district council leases are due to expire again next March and the council will then have the task of deciding whether to grant new leases.

Since the last court battle the baches have been registered as an historic area by Heritage New Zealand. While this does not provide any direct protection, it is likely to have an influence on the council's decision.

Mark Bruhn, council's manager of parks, said the issue of whether a portion of the reserve should continue to be leased to bach owners would be considered once the Tongaporutu Management Plan had been finalised and adopted.

The draft plan sets out how the council will manage the popular reserve during the next 10 years.

Public consultation early this year resulted in the council receiving more than 100 submissions about the appropriate use of the reserve, the activities that take place there, landscape development and access.

"These comments helped us shape the draft plan," Bruhn said.

"Once we get approval from the council, we intend to have a second round of public consultation."

The plan proposes initiatives that include improving public access along the river bank to the Three Sisters, improving information signs, and having the council take over management and maintenance of the tennis courts.

● The draft plan will be discussed by Clifton community board on Wednesday at 2pm at the Urenui Community Centre.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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