It's a prime piece of land, overlooking the sea, a grassy reserve used by the public.
The proposed location for the National Ocean Water Sports Centre is tucked under Takapuna's The Strand, overlooking the reserve that slopes to the beach. Those in favour of the 1980sq m development say it will be brilliant for water sports, boost the local economy and provide facilities for the wider community. Opponents say the location is entirely inappropriate.
Auckland Council and Harbour Access Trust are behind the development, which Yachting New Zealand will own and operate to cater for its high performance athletes. The centre will be a base for training, and an administrative space for staff and coaches.
Public amenities there will include storage for kayaks and the like, and bookable spaces for events.
To date, Auckland Council and SPARC have each contributed $3 million and the New Zealand Community Trust $2.5 million.
Already there are detailed plans for the project and resource consent is likely to be lodged in the next four weeks.
Earlier, there was criticism that the public would not have their say. In 2010, The Aucklander talked to a former Takapuna Community Board member, Ruth Ell, who said it was vital the public be advised so they could make their opinions known.
Devonport-Takapuna Local Board chair Chris Darby says Yachting New Zealand recognises huge community interest in the centre and accepts the need for the public to be informed. He says Auckland Council's $3 million contribution has not yet been released but will help fund community facilities, including public toilets, showers, changing rooms and boat storage. He anticipates 30 per cent of the building's area will be for general community use.
Mr Darby says the board inherited the decision to join the development from the former North Shore City Council. "We are implementing the resolutions the council is bound to through contract, and that is the delivery of the National Ocean Water Sports Centre."
He says the the project will be rigorously tested through the consent process. "[The centre is] on the edge of a reserve and it will be built under the road reserve. We know there is public support and there are [also] those who have concerns about it."
One of those concerned is Takapuna resident Jim Young, who remembers when the former Takapuna City Council bought the beachfront land, removed the houses and turned it into a reserve.
He and fellow members of local group Environment Takapuna, believe the centre and a nearby hardstand to store high-performance boats will reduce reserve space and impede public access.
"The reserve was purchased at a cost of many millions of dollars, for the whole public of the North Shore. It was meant for everybody," he says.
Mr Young has an affinity with boats. He's an award-winning boatbuilder and lifelong yachtsman, but worries large-scale events organised by the centre will clog the reserve with boats.
"Almost certainly when they bring their boats up they are going to drip saltwater and kill the grass. There's just not enough room for the kind of activities proposed."
He feels Milford Beach would be a better site for the centre.
"Look at the huge sponsorship that goes into yachting. Are [Yachting New Zealand] an object of charity that we have to give away some of our public reserve for them to manage?"
Yachting New Zealand CEO David Abercrombie says of several sites investigated for the centre Takapuna ticked the most boxes.
"One of the main reasons it was chosen is that Takapuna and the Hauraki Gulf are arguably the best sailing waters in the country for our Olympic classes."
He says there will always be disagreements over projects proposed on coastal land.
Part of the building will be for hire and there will be public showers, changing rooms and a first aid station. "Because there is a council contribution and a Community Trust contribution we saw the need to provide these facilities."
The building will also include a public storage area for small craft such as stand-up paddleboards, kayaks and windsurfers.
Facilitating the project is the Harbour Access Trust, established to work with North Shore City Council to deliver a ferry service to Takapuna and Browns Bay.
Trust chair Peter Wall says both the council and central government asked the trust to act as developer and promoter of the centre. The trust is made up of property developer Wall, former Olympic sailor Ralph Roberts, Takapuna Beach Business Association chairman Dave Donaldson, broadcaster Peter Montgomery, Jasons Travel Media director John Sandford and businesswoman Sandra Wakeford. Mr Wall says about $300,000 of central government funding via SPARC has already been used, mainly for consulting and design work.
He says the development would bring greater activity to the area and has the support of local businesses. "It's seen as the start of the revitalisation of The Strand."
He says instead of taking away public space the project will allow for better use of the reserve by recontouring the slope and addingdisabled access.
"The footprint of the building encroaches about 5m out on to the reserve but the area above it will become open space for public viewing."
Top Kiwi kayaker and surf lifesaver Teneale Hatton says being able to store her training gear so close to the sea would be invaluable.
However, while the centre would provide convenient storage for her surf-ski, it would not benefit her kayaking pursuits. "It's got huge potential to be an amazing facility if it was a shared high performance base for more than just yachting.
"If there was a recovery area within it and a place to have physio then that would be amazing as it's only two minutes from Lake Pupuke where I train.
"It seems like a huge amount of money for one sport and it's offering very little for other athletes."
Teneale is training to compete in the K1 500 for the Olympics this year, and also aims to compete in the world surf championships next year.
HEAR ABOUT IT
In the next two months there will be a public information session on the proposed National Ocean Water Sports Centre, with representatives from Yachting NZ, the Harbour Access Trust and Auckland Council.
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