Record plan submissions flood in

By Lawrence Gullery

The civic square redevelopment, coastal erosion and the new international hockey turf are among the record number of 642 submissions before the Hastings District Council's long term plan hearings which begin today.

The plan is reviewed every three years and 148 submissions were recorded in 2009 and 116 in 2006.

The council has set aside six days to consider the submissions, of which 134 will be presented in person.

Hastings Deputy Mayor Cynthia Bowers said intense media coverage of local government in recent months could be the reason more people were coming forward to have a say on the council's long term plan.

"It is the highest number of submissions we've had in my experience and I don't think there is one particular topic that's driving it.

"Rate payers have become more aware that if they support a project, they need to make their voices heard whereas in the past there had been a tendency of there to be a silent majority and a varying number of fairly vocal people opposed."

She pointed out the $7.5 million redevelopment of the civic square, the $4.2 million international hockey turf at regional sports park and coastal erosion problems at Haumoana featured highly among submissions. Hydraulic fracturing had also generated about 40 submissions, although there was no oil or gas exploration proposed for the Hastings district.

"I think there is just a group of passionate people who are wanting their voices heard on the issue and are probably submitting to every Hawke's Bay council," Cr Bowers said.

Councillors would also have to consider an additional 660 responses from a questionnaire promoted at its "Voicebox" initiative, a converted shipping container which travelled the district to highlight key issues of the long term plan.

Council strategy manager Lex Verhoeven's report said that the economic recession was the "overarching factor" in most of the submissions.

"Whilst the key projects within the plan have a level of community support, there is community concern over the extent of the programme put forward at the pace with which community enhancement projects are proposed," Mr Verhoeven said.

People asked whether the civic square redevelopment plan could be prioritised to allow for "a less costly proposal", if the new hockey turf proposed for the regional sports park needed to be of an international standard and how much more money was needed for walking and cycling initiatives, given recent investment.

Submitters also wanted to know if business investment rather than public money could be used to fund the $5 million Te Mata Visitor Centre proposal.

Future development of public reserve land at Romanes Drive, near Havelock North, had also attracted comment from sports such as football, BMX and croquet.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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