As plans to convert the waterways in their neighbourhood into wetlands in the name of safety, residents of a Tauranga suburb claim they have not been properly consulted and are making their displeasure obvious.
Caroline Fleming talks to some of those affected by the council plan.
More than 150 Pāpāmoa residents turned out to protest the Tauranga City Council's Wairakei Landscape Plan that plans to turn their beloved waterways into shrub-heavy wetlands.
The plan would see 51 "sediment-retention" wetlands created along the Wairakei stream and stormwater reserve and a new path/cycleway along the edge of the waterway in Pāpāmoa.
The vegetation would "improve the ecology and create a safer environment", a council report said.
However, residents yesterday turned out en masse to express their anger and disgust over the plan they claimed they were not decently consultation on.
However, a council spokeswoman said extensive engagement was run on the Wairakei Landscape Plan and the public and stakeholders had several opportunities to review and comment on the plans.
The protest was originally planned as a chance for the residents to speak to council members, however, council staff did not attend as they were not given advance notice of the meeting, the spokeswoman said.
Protesters expressed their anger through a loudspeaker and two petitions circulated.
One of the co-ordinators of the meeting, Bruce Cortesi, yelled through the loudspeaker "if they start planting, I'll just start ripping them out", which was met with loud cheers by the crowd.
Cortesi said he had requested another meeting with the council and the residents, as so many felt there had not been sufficient consultation.
Pāpāmoa resident Helen Brooks had recently built on the waterways for the "tranquillity" of the area, but she was "horrified" that it could be taken away from her by the planting of wetlands and a cycleway just 2m from her front gate.
Eileen Burgess said there was "obscure consultation on the plan" and the hundreds of residents who turned up to protest had "not known anything about it", only becoming aware when grass areas started to be cordoned off near their properties.
Local mother Kirsty Macleod-Morley said the prospect of shrubbery bordering the reserve caused her extreme worry as her four children often played around the waterways and she feared her vision of them would be obscured.
"It takes a second for one of them to fall through the reeds and they could be gone".
Charles Porter, who was a part of the Papamoa Sailing Club, said all he asked was that the council kept a recreational area for residents to enjoy the waterways.
Another co-ordinator of the meeting, Bruce Hart, said he was highly concerned about an infestation of "aggressive pukeko birds" as wetlands were a key breeding ground for them.
He said he had witnessed a 7-year-old get attacked by three pukeko outside his property.
When asked if there had been pushback from Pāpāmoa residents on the development, the council spokeswoman said some residents the council had spoken to were devastated about losing their water views and the option to be able to picnic, feed ducks and walk along the waterways.
The area had always been a stormwater reserve and the spokeswoman said the council was enhancing the recreational function of the area by constructing cycleways, seating, signage and planting the water's edge.
The council spokeswoman said the project manager had been in the area meeting with the model sailing yacht club about the changes and he and been approached by the protesters "in a verbally aggressive way" by some. He did not feel comfortable engaging and left, she said.
Councillor Leanne Browne said she was happy to meet with residents at a formal meeting, after gathering all facts about consultation and engagement from the start of the project to date.
TIMELINE OF PLAN:
2015 - PLANNING
The council prepared a draft landscape plan.
2016–2017 - PUBLIC CONSULTATION
The council met local residents, community groups and cultural and environmental stakeholders to discuss the proposed plan.
Project is approved and the tender process begins.
Following public consultation, the project was adopted as part of the final Long-Term Plan.
A blessing ceremony was held on the banks of the Wairakei Stream and five kahikatea were planted to mark the start of the plan.
NOVEMBER - DECEMBER 2018
Work on the landscape plan started with installation of pathways and some park furniture.
Initial landscaping begins.
Planting and landscaping will take place in phases and will include community planting days.
FROM DECEMBER 2019
The remainder of the plan, through to Te Tumu, will be completed over subsequent years.
Source: Tauranga City Council