No matter what you call it, Te Papa o Nga Manu Porotakataka or the Place of the Circling Birds or the old Phoenix carpark or that bloody shambles on Mount Mainstreet, it's a fantastic example of a solution looking for a problem.

What's more the whole process, from the original idea to the official opening three weeks tomorrow, is the kind of farce that award-winning TV series are made of.

Let's go back to the start.


Property developers everywhere pay contributions to their local authority. Development in Mount Maunganui north of Mt Drury in the past 20 years has been phenomenal and those contributions have helped pay for the extra potable water, wastewater, stormwater and transportation required for the massive increase in population living and staying in all those high rises and other apartment blocks.

But some of the contributions were set aside for reserves and "community infrastructure".

Millions were collected. It had to be spent by 2021 or it would be given back to the developers. It also had to be spent north of Banks Ave and Salisbury Ave, the two streets running from Main Beach to Pilot Bay that meet at the roundabout outside Burger King at the southern end of Mount Mainstreet.

Therein lies the first problem. There are already plenty of green spaces, reserves and "community infrastructure" in the neighbourhood. There's Mt Drury, Banks Ave Reserve and Coronation Park, not to mention Mauao, Pilot Bay and one of the country's favourite places, Main Beach.

There are countless places to relax, to lie on the grass and sit by the sea. What there are not are many places to park your car, especially in the vicinity of Mount Mainstreet.

But no, the Tauranga City Council has this bundle of cash which is under threat of being given back to the people from whom it was extracted in the first place.

So like all government agencies at any level, the Tauranga City Council is determined, come hell or high water, that it must spend the money. Instead of perhaps spreading their horizons to other places south of Burger King – like maybe installing some picnic or family infrastructure in Coronation Park, or paying the full cost of the new Visitor Centre there – their eyes zoom in on the Phoenix carpark.

Now, it wasn't the most stunning part of Mainstreet, but it did its job. It wasn't an eyesore, there were 55 car parks there, the Phoenix palms gave it a (small) taste of tropical sophistication and it hosted the small Mount Mainstreet (business association) office building with the famous Mountie statue outside. (By the way, where is that statue?)


In a town which is often overflowing, the car park infrastructure was vital for everybody's sanity and important for business viability.

In other words, it wasn't causing anybody any angst.

Except busybody Tauranga City Council people who knew better. They insisted on spending that money rather than give it back to people who'd injected millions into the local economy through their developments.

And so came the grand plan for a park, a green space, instead of a blacktop carpark. Most of the business owners thought it was a bad idea. Take away parking, take away business they said.

But no, they were told, it was happening. Leading the charge was Mount Maunganui/Papamoa ward councillor Leanne Brown, who once ran the Mount Mainstreet business association.

She was quoted in the Bay of Plenty Times in April last year saying ratepayers would not pay for the green space as "it's being funded by developer contributions and that money has to be spent by 2021 or we have to give it back".

You can't beat City Hall. And so it went ahead.

Except those comedy writers had to get a few more laughs. For a start, the budget, set in 2015, wasn't fully funded by development contributions and needed be topped up by a "rate funded loan".

Cripes, us ratepayers being stung for something we don't want or need. Who would have thought?

Then in September this year, when it was under construction, it was discovered the budget for the project, written three years ago, was $490,045 short. That's only a 25 per cent mistake. The TCC approved the overspend, although to their credit they did say that the money had to be found from within existing council budgets.

But that means some things we do need will be put off for something that we don't.

The blame for the overspend was accepted by Jaine Lovell-Gadd, the council's general manager for city transformation. The reason? The budget, set in 2015, wasn't checked and reassessed before construction began three years later.

Last Saturday we learned of the name for this place. Te Papa o Nga Manu Porotakataka. That just rolls off the tongue and is sure to drop into local vernacular really quickly isn't it?

Yeah right.

We're told local residents will be consulted about the name. What's the point? It's already decided. A date for the opening is already set. Don't waste any more time or materials on a fake consultation – or should that be insultation?

As it's almost ready for use, I thought it was time to go down Mainstreet and look through the fence to see how it's shaping up. Now remember, this was sold as green space in the middle of town. The key feature listed on the artist's impression hanging on the perimeter fence says "grass areas to play and relax".

The place looks to me like it's about 80 per cent concrete.

This saga sure to win the Emmy Award for best comedy.