Tumu Group property developers has withdrawn its controversial housing proposal to develop the iconic Showgrounds Hawke's Bay Tomoana.
However, Hawke's Bay A&P Society president Simon Collin said the society still had to solve the "very big problem" of how it would meet the requirements to maintain and upgrade showground assets.
"That challenge has not gone away, but we are unlikely to consider residential development again."
A proposal to put housing on the showgrounds was made by Tumu at the end of November, and it was followed by public backlash including from Save Our Fertile Soils Society members John Bostock and Richard Gaddum.
At a meeting held at the showgrounds on Tuesday night, the society's committee members gathered to consider the proposal.
This followed the society's annual meeting early last week at which details of the purchase offer from Tumu Group were presented to the wider membership.
On Tuesday night, committee members were presented with a request from Tumu Group that its purchase offer be withdrawn, which the society agreed to.
Collin said accepting the withdrawal was the "right thing to do" for the society.
"It is time for the society to unify as a group, take stock, and move in a new direction to secure our financial future.
"We acknowledge the very genuine and generous offer from the Tumu Group, which came to the society unsolicited, and thank them for their interest in helping us to secure a sustainable, long-term future."
He said it was clear that by exploring options to guarantee the future of the society, they had ignited the interest and passion of the community, with many people expressing their opinions, and offering solutions.
Financially the society was barely breaking even, he said.
"As a society, we have a strategic opportunity to put more thought into how we transform from an asset rich, cash poor organisation, to one that has a bright, positive and sustainable future.
"We have had a tough couple of years due to Covid, and we are faced with an aging infrastructure which needs a lot of work, and on top of that we have a 42 hectare property which requires repair and maintenance."
He called directly on members and the community for their input, including those who publicly shared their views such as Bostock, Gaddum and Paul Paynter.
"It's great that so many people are passionate about the Tomoana Showgrounds, but we can't pay the bills with passion. There has to be a reality check; doing nothing is not an option."
The society members will regroup in January to consider its future.
Tumu Group director Barry O'Sullivan said the company decided to withdraw its offer once the extent of the A&P membership and community sentiment became clear.
"We have a genuine interest in helping create a sustainable future for the A&P Society, and preserving the history and heritage of the site, in particular the Waikoko Gardens and the iconic Hawke's Bay Farmers Market. "
He said the company's intent from the outset was to work collaboratively with stakeholders to help secure the society's financial future, provide for better public access to an underutilised asset, and deliver hundreds of desperately needed houses to Hastings.
"However, we couldn't do it without the support of A&P members and the wider community, and that's why we have withdrawn."
Save Our Fertile Soils Society Incorporated member and organic apple grower, Bostock said they had received "overwhelming" community support to preserve the showgrounds as a special green space for the Hawke's Bay community now and in perpetuity.
Save Our Fertile Soils Society spokesman Gaddum said judging from the response and the "horror" from the public over the proposal, he understood why the property developers "backed off immediately as it was a project that was doomed from the outset and dead in the water".
The society is a lobby group which had been publicly trying to protect the fertile Heretaunga Plains from increasing urbanisation.
Bostock said the group was not against development and building houses but believed there were other places for urbanisation to take place on unproductive soils, without using the country's most productive land and much needed urban green spaces, which are necessary for communities to thrive and enjoy.