Boat ramp lobbyists win access for public

By Sonya Bateson

The boat ramp at Okawa Bay has been unlocked and is available for public access.

A blockade of the privately owned Lake Rotoiti boat ramp was planned earlier in the month by Ngati Pikiao Environmental Society, which said exclusive use granted by the council to the Bay of Plenty Yacht Squadron meant the public had been denied the opportunity to launch boats from the reserve for decades.

About 60 people, including representatives from Ngati Pikiao, Te Arawa Lakes Trust, Rotorua Lakes Community Board, the squadron, Bay of Plenty Regional Council and the Rotorua District Council, met on Friday.

Rotorua District Council chief executive Peter Guerin, who was nominated as spokesman for all of the groups, said the meeting went very well. It was chaired by Reverend Tom Poata and Mr Guerin said he did a "superb job" at holding everybody who attended the meeting to account.

"There were a number of issues that had been considered including the resource consent for the boat ramp which was granted in 2007, at a time when both the council and the regional council were trying to get resource consent for all structures on the Rotorua lake beds."

Mr Guerin said council staff gave an informative presentation with the research they had undertaken, then each of the parties were given the opportunity to speak.

After then breaking into smaller groups to discuss the presentations, Mr Guerin said the squadron agreed to public access.

"I think the yacht squadron has to be commended for their particular approach, they listened to everything and agreed to keep the boat ramp available and open to the public. There were rounds of applause for the decision of the yacht club."

He said Te Arawa Lakes Trust chairman Dr Toby Curtis then suggested a committee be established to go through the technicalities of having the ramp open to the public.

"It's a small area, so we've got to think carefully," Mr Guerin said. "There are navigational and safety issues to sort out. We will try and have a meeting before Christmas but we haven't set out an agenda yet, but it's to understand the implications of having the ramp open to a greater group of users."

Mr Guerin asked people using the ramp to be mindful as it was an area with a lot of users and said they should stick to normal navigation and seamanship responsibilities.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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