Wayne Thompson

Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Campground stays put for now

Takapuna holiday park gets temporary reprieve as high performance sailing centre forced to review plans.

Graeme and Elaine Haworth of Cambridge, have been camping at the Takapuna Camping Ground since 1984. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Graeme and Elaine Haworth of Cambridge, have been camping at the Takapuna Camping Ground since 1984. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Months of hot debate over whether a high performance sail training centre should be built on the site of the Takapuna beach camping ground has taken a twist - with promoters revising space needs and camp operators told they won't have to pack up when their lease expires on March 31.

In July, Yachting New Zealand showed plans for an $8 million National Ocean Water Sports Centre - to a mixed reception.

It chose a review of Auckland Council's draft management plan as a chance to test the plan for the northern 40 per cent of the public reserve, which is leased by the Takapuna Beach Holiday Park.

An outpouring of support for the 80-year-old business to stay on the waterfront included 4500 followers on a Facebook page and a petition with 2037 signatures.

YNZ promoted the benefits of the site for getting coaches and athletes together, with endorsements from Olympic sailing gold medallists Jo Aleh, Olivia Powrie and Tom Ashley.

However, some residents groups called for the reserve to become open space.

Yachting New Zealand chief executive David Abercrombie said a council decision had been expected on December 15 but a recommendation from the draft management review panel had been delayed and was now hoped for in February.

"All we are applying for is the bulk and location plan for the management plan.

"We went back to the commission with a variation of the footprint - a decrease - in order to maximise the reserve space that will go back to the community.

"We have offered some options to lessen the impact."

He said architects Warren & Mahoney would prepare a new picture of the YNZ proposals for the council.

"It's because we heard there were objections to the type of building. It will be softened a great deal."

Mr Abercrombie said the building would need to get a resource consent process.

He was pleased with the support for the project since the hearing of options for the reserve's use.

"A number of people have said 'that's fantastic for Takapuna and youth' and the group who don't see it as being positive are in a minority."

Major funders were confirmed despite earlier hopes that resource consents could be applied for in April.

The council and Sport New Zealand have committed to $3 millon each. Other funders are NZ Community Trust and Lion Foundation.

Devonport-Takapuna Local Board chairman Chris Darby said it was unrealistic that the panel would make a decision in the short term and the board wanted to help the park operators run their business in the best possible way.

The board had asked Auckland Council Property to offer the operators a month-by-month rollover of their lease.

The company's offer was accepted as "better than nothing" by holiday park owner Marius Rothmann.

"We would prefer at least six months a time though, because people book their holiday longer than a month ahead."

Ruth Ell, of Environment Takapuna, had no objection to a monthly extension of the lease though said it would be better to consider the needs for open space without it.

"But we are firmly opposed to a concrete carpark bunker over the reserve - it's gross."

Mrs Ell said YNZ did not need a reserve for their office.

"I have sympathy for the elite yachties but I'm not sure that the only piece of flat grass left is the place to put it."

A council spokesman said there was no offer of a site to the centre.

At this stage, options including a marine activities hub were being considered in the draft reserve management plan.

This had been subject to public hearings by a panel consisting of five Devonport-Takapuna Local Board members and an independent commissioner.

The plan has two options for the northern reserve, next to the public boat ramp.

The first option is for the camping ground to be dedicated to marine activities and a larger area of public space. The second option provides 28 spaces for a self-service motor home overnight park as a marine activities hub and a big public lawn.

The site is a replacement for one mooted in 2010 above the beach at The Strand, near Takapuna Boating Club.

Auckland Council correspondence obtained by the Herald shows concern about the cost of that proposal ballooning to $11.5 million, which was unlikely to be raised.

It was found that the Southern Cross Telecom cable, and seven TelstraClear fibre optic cables, were located under the proposed footprint of the centre. This was estimated to cost $500,000 to relocate.

By May, the centre sponsor, Harbour Access, decided that a centre tucked into the Alison Rd edge of the camping site was the only possibility for a fully funded facility.

Loyal campers cherish waterfront spot in the city

Their cherished view of the ocean through a frame of pohutukawa flowers is blurred with sadness this Christmas for Elaine and Graeme Haworth, at their campsite 5m from Auckland's Takapuna Beach.

"I hear it's our last time here," said Mr Haworth softly, Herald racing form guide in hand and trusty transistor relaying the commentary.

"We hear the camp is closing when its lease runs out and we will will miss it," he said.

"We've been coming for 28 years, with sons and grandchildren staying here, and they've all just loved it," said Mrs Haworth. "We had eight for dinner last night."

The couple from Cambridge retired after 55 years in a floor covering and furnishing business.

The warm salty air blowing off the Rangitoto Channel was their tonic.

Two weeks' holiday a year at the camping ground - 350m from the town's main shopping street and 20 minutes from Auckland CBD - rates as highly as their "rural" beach break up at Whatuwhiwhi, in the Far North.

"We are lucky we can have so many different types of holiday - from here we can go to the Ellerslie races, watch the ladies tennis, play bowls and walk along the beach path to Milford."

Mr Haworth said the camping ground had lost a third of its grounds since 10 years ago and sites were pulled back from the water's edge.

This was a condition of Auckland Council for renewing the lease, which expires on March 31 but may be extended on a monthly basis.

The camp was much quieter now, with some caravan sites vacant.

"We used to be up the back but were able to move up right next to the waterfront footpath."

Mr Haworth recalls that on their first visit the caravan site was $18 and it is now $45 - dearer, but still a bargain for a prime waterfront spot.


Water Centre

$8m project for campground site
$3m each from ratepayers and taxpayers
$1m each from Lion Foundation and NZ Community Trust
5 codes using: sailing, kayaking, triathlon, ocean swimming, waka ama

- NZ Herald

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