Guest column: Let's get the plan right for Pilot Bay

By Leigh Pettigrew

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I represent the Pilot Bay Coast Care Group. Our group was formed soon after Rena went aground. It became clear that the use of volunteers might be far more effective if they were given some autonomy, and some flexibility in terms of time management.

I was appointed team leader of Adopt a Beach - Pilot Bay, with no team! Within a week, however, a team was formed and individuals rostered, on a daily basis, with my basement as the resource centre, containing a rubbish bin for oil, gloves, protective suits and oil solvents, etc. The group expressed a wish to carry on and were invited to form a coast care group, which brings us to the present. We have largely become rubbish collectors, picking up rubbish and debris on a daily basis.

Obviously we are passionate about our bay and are concerned that our icon is about to undergo a major transformation that no one envisaged when the council announced and published its plans for Pilot Bay. Unfortunately, the council chose to vote on the plan first and consult the public second, so all debate may be pointless.

We are concerned that the boardwalk is too wide (3m), will cover a large area of the recreational grassed area, and will present an uncomfortable impediment and barrier for young families, and for that matter, people of all ages who enjoy using the area without restriction.

We would like to save as much of the grassed area as possible for recreational use, placing a boardwalk in the worn areas only (where re-grassing is not going to work) and put a lot more effort into maintenance of the existing grass. We feel it is neglect in the form of lack of water, fertiliser and a suitable re-grassing programme that has bought us to this point.

Members noted that placing five pedestrian crossings along the mall will result in 30 less carparks, which equates to 30 more families desperately circling and hoping for a park in the middle of a hot sunny day and with kids loaded up in the car, complete with togs, towels, buckets and spades.

I have five young grandchildren and have not experienced any difficulty crossing the road and would question whether five crossings are necessary.

The pedestrian crossings, unfortunately, don't end at the footpath, but carry on as a large slab of concrete, across the previously grassed area, with steps down to the beach.

The council plan calls for all dinghies to be placed on the beach horizontally on wooden racks, located each side of the five sets of concrete steps leading down to the beach, off the pedestrian crossings. Placed randomly and unobtrusively on the banks, children can run on top of them, people can sit on them, photograph them, etc. They enhance the look and feel of the beach and should be left as they are.

We met with the mayor, who pointed out that the council had voted 10-1 in favour of the proposal, and he would take our comments on board, but the decision has been taken. Individual councillors have been most helpful and I suspect regret voting for the plan.

If they had time to consider the implications of the proposal or, more importantly, had they taken the time to present the plan to the public for discussion prior to voting, we might have had a proposal we could all be proud of.

After all, we are about to change one of the most beautiful places in the world. What is wrong with taking some time to get it right?

Leigh Pettigrew is the chairman of the Pilot Bay Coast Care Group

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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