Over the years, I have used my pen to defend and protect Tainui Reserve.
Tainui is the jewel in the crown of the Havelock North reserves.
When the jewel got, in my view, tarnished from years of neglect, I wrote a Talking Point in the Hawke's Bay Today.
It was the first of three opinion pieces I penned railing against the neglect of all Havelock North reserves and I also complained directly to council.
Former mayor Lawrence Yule and his then CEO admitted publicly that managers had underperformed and promised better.
My pen also got doggy-bag dispensers sited at all four entrances, stopped council from putting a 3m wide concrete roadway through the unspoiled Lower Grove; prevented the felling of the magnificent stand of mature poplars there; helped get a developer who illegally felled around 18 trees named and shamed and fined $15,000, (of that $8000 was used to buy plants for the Tainui Care Group to remediate the area); stopped neighbours from subdividing their lifestyle block to tiny 350sq m sections and got dangerous stones removed on three popular walking tracks in 2016.
Normally, not much escapes my attention but recently something did which, I believe, is very detrimental to the reserve.
Due to inadequate consultation, the first thing anyone knew about a 600m long mountain bike track was when contractors carved it out of the hillside from the Hikanui entrance heading downhill towards the Lower Grove.
This explained why teenage mountain bikers were using the walking tracks as a race track each evening until I emailed the council, reporting that I and a friend had just missed being seriously injured on a narrow walking track by the pack of six speeding teenagers.
The track, which had been opened prematurely, was closed.
After making inquiries, I established that the mountain bike club was paying for the track and that set off alarm bells.
I believe it sets a dangerous precedent because once someone pays for something there is a sense of ownership, a sense of self-entitlement. Tainui Reserve is a public space.
Currently, council has given the club permission to establish mountain bike tracks in at least four of the Havelock North reserves but I believe this is wrong.
For every mountain biker there are thousands of reserve users who have no interest in their activity and who want to use the public spaces to take time out to relax in, walk their dogs off-lead, stroll with their children, listen to music, and know that they are safe.
When the 2015 Draft Reserves Management Plan for Tainui, Tanner, Tauroa and Hikanui reserves was compiled and there was a page showing that mountain bike tracks could be a possibility in the future, no one could have envisaged that four years later crowdfunding would allow the purchase of a property adjoining Te Mata Peak park giving mountain bikers yet another potential space to create their tracks.
What I and 99 per cent of the public were unaware of was that the development of the tracks in the four reserves named had progressed to construction stage.
There had been no public meeting for locals to hear anything about the proposal.
I think the elected council needs to recognise the rights of the vast majority of ratepayers and enable members of the public to enjoy several reserves that are mountain bike free.
Given that Tainui Reserve is very family friendly, often hosting community events, I believe that Tainui is the obvious choice to be one of those reserves.
There needs to be compromise. It is time to recognise that mountain bike club members have more than enough options to enjoy their sporting activity and leave Tainui for the vast majority of people who just want to walk and exercise in peace.
I have used my pen to defend and protect Tainui before and I will continue to do so until the ink runs dry.
Jessica Maxwell has lived beside Tainui Reserve for 32 years and is a concerned Hastings ratepayer.