US folk join Marineland fight

By Roger Moroney

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Napier's Friends of Marineland group has acquired 1550 new supporters from a small town in the US who took on their "town board" over an environmental issue and won.

And they have simple advice for the local group in their campaign to re-open Marineland - "you can fight city hall and win".

Backing came from Frank Meredith, a spokesman for the town of Meredith, population 1550.

After a four-year struggle against the building of giant wind turbines across their town, the residents won.

Their greatest ally had been the voting paper, Mr Meredith said.

"Citizens can prevail against an entrenched bureaucracy by organising an effective campaign to change the situation via the ballot box - we encourage the citizens of Napier to do the same to preserve Marineland."

Mr Meredith was contacted by Friends of Marineland co-ordinator Emily Otto after she saw a TV documentary called Windfall.

It told the story of the small town's long battle against their council to prevent giant wind turbines being put up through the area. A neighbouring town had allowed 20 to be built and within a couple of years there were 200.

"Wind turbines and Marineland are very different issues but when I heard them say 'do you know what it's like to be ignored by your town councillors?' I suddenly felt a connection with the little town and felt I needed to make contact," Mrs Otto said.

Which she did, and discovered that Mr Meredith had actually visited Napier, on holiday, last year.

He had been unaware of the battle for Marineland at that time.

Mrs Otto said he assured her he was "happy to help out".

He agreed to accept a "Friends of Marineland" supporters' T-shirt to put on for photographs which would add to the list of wearers now across all major continents which have gone on-line on www.facebook.com/sosmarineland

Mr Meredith said the wind turbine issue emerged in 2004.

"We are governed by a town board consisting of the town supervisor and four members of council who serve four-year terms. The majority of the town board favoured allowing wind turbines within the town."

He said whether or not to allow wind turbines became a "very divisive" issue in Meredith and surrounding towns.

"I do not know specifically what the ratio was of those for and against, but the majority of the citizens in Meredith opposed it."

He said it became the main issue in the 2008 election of town officers.

"Basically there were two tickets [people standing for office]," Mr Meredith said.

"One for wind turbines and one against. The anti-wind turbine faction won the election and the new town board passed a wind ordinance that banned industrial wind turbines."

He said the citizens of Meredith who opposed wind turbines achieved their goal through the election process.

"By voting board members who favoured wind turbines out of office."

Mrs Otto said the story of Meredith had been inspirational, and their support in the group's fight to restore Marineland as a marine wildlife education and sanctuary centre was welcomed.

"I guess the bottom-line is, if complete strangers care and think Marineland needs preserving then we wonder why our own councillors can't see the potential? If the majority of Napier ratepayers support retention and redevelopment then it makes sense that council should run with that and make us proud.

"We are so lucky to have this special gift on our doorstep and it is in our democratic hands to turn things around."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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