Weekly column by Kāpiti's Greater Wellington Regional Council representative Penny Gaylor.

At our last council meeting (via Zoom of course) Greater Wellington Regional Council endorsed the new set of 'All Park Directions' for the Draft Parks Network Plan.

Our overall draft plan will be presented to either council or hopefully the environment committee (which I chair) at a later date to seek approval for a two-month period of public consultation.

The current Parks Network Plan was last updated in 2011, and is a statutory management plan (under the Reserves Act 1977 (the Act)) for eight Greater Wellington parks, including Queen Elizabeth Park here on the Kāpiti Coast.

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Queen Elizabeth Park.
Queen Elizabeth Park.

The act requires that management plans are kept current, adapting to changing public needs and circumstances.

The 2011 plan provides a long-term strategic approach for management of core park recreation and conservation values.

So keeping in mind the changing public needs the new version proposes some significant strategic direction changes.

Given our keen environmental interest here on the Kāpiti Coast, and the specific relevance to our much loved, and highly used, QE Park, here is an overview of proposed direction.

Key policy changes proved by GWRC:

a) Strengthening of the application of environmental impact assessment processes for Greater Wellington and external party work in parks because protecting important park values from impacts is a key component of good stewardship and kaitiakitanga of parks.

b) Adoption of a catchment-wide approach to reflect joined up planning and ecosystem management with others, including whaitua planning and implementation.

c) Land use change policy to limit future stock grazing licences unless conservation or recreation benefits can be demonstrated through environmental impact assessment processes.

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d) Revised policy to identify the primacy of maintaining public access to parks, including to accord with the reserve classification status.

e) Minor policy changes to ensure that National Policy Statements and other Greater Wellington plans such as the Proposed Natural Resources Plan are incorporated.

f) Development of new policy which support dark skies and minimise light pollution.

It is especially worth noting that the strategic directions identify the intention to phase out stock grazing in parks (except Battle Hill), unless there are demonstrable conservation and recreation benefits from the activity continuing.

This will be a significant land use change in several parks - including QEP.

Funding for for the existing restoration work and the hoped or expansion, could be funded from a range of sources.

Significant funding will be sought as part of the 2021-31 Long Term Plan process (which includes the prioritisation of activities by council), but can be supported by other sources of funding.

These include grant funding from government initiatives, sponsorship, philanthropic donations, community-led funding initiatives, concessionaire opportunities, partnerships with other agencies and mitigation planting from other developments.

This has been achieved elsewhere in the country with great success.