What is a regional park? Why is Napier City Council (and HBRC) proposing to spend huge amounts of money on developing it? And, why do we need another park?
These are all great questions and for me it highlights that we haven't yet got the name right for our Ahuriri Estuary Regional Park proposal.
Since 2019 water has been Napier's No 1 priority and stormwater is a big part of that.
Napier currently discharges approximately 75 per cent of its stormwater, untreated, into Te Whanganui a Orotū (the Ahuriri Estuary).
We also have untreated emergency wastewater discharges, commercial and industrial stormwater discharges and sediment runoff all contributing to poor water quality and declining habitat in the estuary.
I don't think this is acceptable and the council knows you don't either. So, what are we going to do about it?
Introducing Ahuriri Regional Park! This is not a neighbourhood-style park, no play equipment and no green mown fields; this is a partnership with NCC, mana whenua and HBRC to significantly change how we interact as a city with one of our most valuable natural assets, Te Whanganui a Orotū.
The plan over the next 10 years is to develop an environmentally focused "park", transforming the current NCC-owned Lagoon Farm into a space focused primarily on treating our stormwater, while also reclaiming natural estuarine habitat and intertidal space, building on biodiversity corridors and ensuring the right recreation in the right spaces.
The park would be functional and achieve positive ecological and cultural outcomes, while also giving us increased access to one of the largest estuaries in our country.
The mahi is just starting, with the next step being to develop a master plan as a community that would see us create hectares of treatment wetlands for stormwater, restore estuarine habitat, introduce new plantings, tell our cultural stories and the stories of the amazing species that visit our estuary through an education space, knit surrounding farmland into the existing environment and appropriately place passive recreation like walking and cycling in areas where we don't affect sensitive species and birdlife.
What do you think a park like this should be called? Our region has some amazing regional parks, Pākōwhai (a Country Regional Park), Waitangi (Wetland and Celestial Compass Regional Park), Pekapeka (wetland Regional Park) and Tūtira (Lake Regional Park), with your support I think Ahuriri (Estuary Regional Park) can be the next.
There is so much that could be said about this project - the master plan development to come, community and mana whenua involvement, wetland design, district plan zoning, the Lagoon Farm, the interaction with the existing environment, flood control and all the potential partners to this awesome place.
I've been passionately advocating for improvements in this space for a long time. Driven by the collaborative efforts of Mana Ahuriri, mayor Kirsten Wise, HBRC chairman Rex Graham and all our councillors, Napier is forming the first partnership of its kind to deliver this project for our future.
The time is right; I truly feel the Ahuriri Regional Park project is a huge step forward in taking responsibility and ownership for how our city impacts on our natural environment, and together making the steps over the next decade to put it right.
If you're an environmentalist, a conservationist, a school, a green-focused community group or just anyone in our community who loves our estuary, then I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the Ahuriri Regional Park project in Napier's Long Term Plan submission, open now.
PS, don't forget to tell us what you think it should be called!
• Annette Brosnan is the deputy mayor of Napier, city councillor for Tamatea/Onekawa Ward and co-chair of the Ahuriri Regional Park Working Group.