Round lake walk talk causes revolt

By Andre Hueber

Lake Pupuke sits in the heart of Takapuna, surrounded by multi-million dollar properties. It's one of the most picturesque inland spots on the shore, and some would say perfect for a walkway around its 4.5km perimeter.

But the idea of a connected walkway was ditched in 2009... after negative reaction from lakefront landowners.

So they were surprised to hear from an Auckland Council adviser at a Long Term Plan engagement meeting on March 19 that the walkway project was being reconsidered at a cost of about $2 million.

Outraged, a number of residents at the meeting prepared submissions in opposition. Former Olympic sailor Ralph Roberts lives beside the lake and attended the engagement meeting at Takapuna Yacht Club. He recalls part of a slideshow saying "walkway connections around Lake Pupuke", and says he questioned what it meant.

"They said, 'We're just doing a test to see whether people like it or not'."

"I told them North Shore City Council asked for submissions about two years ago and nobody was in favour.

"They said Auckland Council is looking at extending the walkway and asked me, 'What's the problem?"'

Mr Roberts says the problem is getting around the scoria cliffs. There are also trees around the lake that are home to many birds.

He claimed the figure he heard at the meeting was $4 million, not $2 million. "I asked how much had been put aside... they said about $100,000."

But when locals met the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board three weeks later, they were told the adviser had got it wrong and their fears were unfounded.

Board deputy chair Kevin Schwass says the local board adviser - employed by Auckland Council - became "confused" at the first meeting.

"He got a bit muddled and caught on the hoof. The only money in place was for the upgrade of existing reserves.

"Two million wouldn't buy a square metre of land on the lakefront, let alone a walkway. "You'd have to put a boardwalk in front of the water, in front of private properties. ... it was never a goer to my mind.

"There was certainly a reaction from people with properties on Lake Pupuke. All of a sudden it seemed a done deal."

He says the group of residents became "excited" and made presentations opposing the walkway at the Local Board meeting on April 10.

One of those was former North Shore City councillor Genevieve Becroft, who submitted to the board that the current mix of lakefront paths and roadways was all that was needed for a walk around the lake.

"The cost of trying to join the areas by floating walkways is sad, considering that the birdlife finds refuge there and boat owners have quiet places to enjoy nature. The thought of digging into original scoria cliffs for a walkway is environmentally bad practice."

Bill Manning of Manurere Ave agreed: "This lake is a treasure that all Auckland should be proud of and should be protected at all costs. Any thought of constructing a walkway around it would be disaster."

So what is going on? Is there or isn't there a walkway planned around Lake Pupuke?

Auckland Council says a walkway around the lake was never being proposed - only a project to improve connectivity by improving walkways in current reserves and creating links between parks and local streets. It says $1.87 million has been allocated for that work in the draft Long Term Plan.

Mr Schwass says the council employee returned to a second meeting to explain how the confusion had come about and says, in hindsight, the information could have been explained better.

Despite that, Gay Richards of Living Streets Aotearoa is still pushing for public access around the whole of the lake.

"Birdlife can be taken into account and it's a public asset. The more people know about wildlife, the more they can appreciate it."

She says lakeside residents would always say there'll be problems. "They'll think of anything they can to stop it."

Mr Roberts says Ms Richards is out of touch. "She can dream whatever she likes ... there's tonnes of places where people can go to enjoy the place. We don't need it."

Council's manager of local parks Mark Bowater says a property bought by council in 2009 at 1 Lakeview Rd has already improved public access to the lake.

"The house was removed and the site has been reinstated to an open grassed area. The public now has access to Killarney Park from Lakeview Rd and people can use the reserve for informal recreational purposes. It has definitely added value to the local parks network and connectivity of reserves."

He said other possible lakeside acquisitions would be assessed case-by-case in accordance with the aim of fulfilling a key objective in the Lake Pupuke Reserve Management Plan - enhancing public access to the lake.

- The Aucklander

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