Parnell residents vocal over park's fate

By Wayne Thompson

Parnell Community Trust chief executive Chris Davidson at its Gladstone Park childcare centre. Photo / Dean Purcell
Parnell Community Trust chief executive Chris Davidson at its Gladstone Park childcare centre. Photo / Dean Purcell

The possibility of a Parnell park being traded as prime waterfront real estate in a Treaty of Waitangi claim settlement has prompted an outcry from the suburb's heritage and community groups.

The pocket of reserve is on the corner of Gladstone and Balfour Rds, opposite the Dove-Myer Robinson Rose Gardens, and contains a tennis club, children's creche and playground.

It is across the road from a port and harbour lookout, which is also mentioned in the record of agreement signed by the Crown and the Thames-based Marutuahu iwi so far in settlement negotiations.

Although Crown-owned land, Auckland Council leases it to Parnell Community Trust for a childcare centre at a commercial rent, and has leased another part to the Gladstone Tennis Club since 1946.

Trust chief executive Chris Davidson said the centre served up to 40 children.

"There is not a huge number of childcare centres close to the city that have real grass and trees for play."

Parnell Heritage appealed to Auckland Council not to surrender the reserve to the Crown before it gets community views.

In a letter to council chief executive Doug McKay, Parnell heritage chairwoman Mary Barry said the land was allocated as reserve/community use in 1842.

It was vital that public consultation was held and that no settlement was made behind closed doors.

Council executive officer Michael Quinn said the council had assurance from Treaty Settlements Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson that the Fred Ambler Lookout and the playground would remain available for public use.

Waitemata Local Board chairman Shale Chambers said he was preparing a formal position for the board in conjunction with Auckland Council member for Waitemata and Gulf Mike Lee.

"There has been a significant community investment in the land for the benefit of Maori and Pakeha.

"The case for it being a historic site for specific settlement is weak at best and, if that's so, alternative compensation should be sought by the iwi."

Mr Chambers told a meeting of 100 residents that the existing leases would, in due course, become commercial redress.

"Rest assured, it's prime residential land in Parnell, so iwi will in due course commercialise that land," said Mr Chambers.

The reserve has an Auckland Council zoning for open space but adjoining private land is zoned for terrace houses and apartments.

Mr Lee said that for 150 years Auckland ratepayers had developed and paid for the upkeep of the reserve.

He urged the council not to co-operate with the Crown in lifting the reserve designation which would enable commercial development.

Office of Treaty Settlements acting deputy secretary Lil Anderson said settlement negotiations with the Marutuahu iwi were ongoing and confidential.

On May 17 the Crown and the iwi signed a record of the agreements reached on their collective redress in settlement negotiations to this point.

Under negotiation

* Treaty proposal for Gladstone Park, Parnell which is presently Crown-owned and run by Auckland Council.

* Fred Ambler Lookout - stays for public use.

* Children's playground - stays for public use.

* Parnell Community Trust-run childcare centre - commercial redress.

* Gladstone Tennis Club - commercial redress.

Total leased land for childcare centre and tennis club is 8866sq m, with a 2011 land value of $2.3 million.

- NZ Herald

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