Park land could be sold to developers

By Sacha Harwood

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Councillors last week debated whether a 5.1ha block of land off Baverstock Rd should be listed for sale or included in the Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park. The land, pictured left of the houses, adjoins the park - the plantings on which are seen on the far left.
Councillors last week debated whether a 5.1ha block of land off Baverstock Rd should be listed for sale or included in the Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park. The land, pictured left of the houses, adjoins the park - the plantings on which are seen on the far left.

Hamilton City Council will consider selling a block of land, originally destined to be added to a major heritage park, to developers.

The 5.1ha block that borders the southeast of Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park came up for disucssion at last Thursday's full council meeting where debate quickly became heated.

Councillors voted 9-4 against declaring the block as a reserve and effectively back tracks on a resolution passed by council last Septmeber that would see the land included in the park's boundary.

Councillor Martin Gallagher, who served on the last council, said in the meeting it was an issue that had been debated by the previous council and the incoming council should carry that on.

"The advice we received, the considered advice from scientists, environmentalists and our own parks and garden staff, was that to rejoin this so called subdivision back into the natural heritage park is a very, very important part of retaining the integrity of that heritage park," said Mr Gallagher.

"There is no doubt that should [council] hock it off, sell it to the nearest land developer, that you will severely compromise this heritage park which now has national nationwide support."

New councillor and finance committee deputy chairperson Garry Mallett said the land is available to be sold and was initially intended to be sold.

"The market has now recovered, and council is likely to receive an advantageous price. The council will save, according to staff estimates, $160,000 to $180,000 capital cost, primarily planting the area. Council would also save 125,000 ongoing maintenance costs," Mr Mallett said.

A council report states there is no significant cost to add the land to the park, but if the land was to be planted it would cost around $160,000-$180,000 for plants. The park relies largely on external funding.

The 5.1ha was initially set aside for a 'smart subdivision' - an eco-friendly community in 2005. When the project was abandoned in 2009, council decided to sell the land when the market improved, and listed the land as surplus council asset for potential sale.

In March last year, the council decided to keep the property and told staff to report back before October, with an update based on the development market.

Council then made the decision to declare the land to become part of the Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park.

Mr Mallett said selling the land would release a small amount of land onto a pressured housing market and could generate long-term income from rates.

"We are simply talking about a bit that was never going to be part of the park, not becoming part of the park. It is not in any way detrimental to the existing park."

Deputy Mayor Gordon Chesterman said the land was valued at about $2.2million before the property market dropped.

Councillor Ewan Wilson said the decision to turn the land into part of the reserve was one made based on the city's future.

"A council, after hearing all the evidence and listening to the facts, resolved and made a decision. We made a decision to turn this land into reserve. We tried to get the balance right between a livable city and commercial aspirations of some."

- Hamilton News

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