The Reserves Act (1977) 'provides for the preservation and management for the benefit and enjoyment of the public areas of NZ possessing recreational use or potential, whether active or passive;' for 'ensuring… the survival of all indigenous species of flora and fauna… in their natural communities and habitats… and also the preservation of access for the public to and along the sea coast, its bays and inlets and offshore islands, lake shores and riverbanks, and fostering and promoting the preservation of the natural character of the coastal environment and of the margins of lakes and rivers and the protection of them from unnecessary subdivision and development.'
The Act prescribes processes for management, and allows for licences, leases, easements etc. Part 4 covers financial provisions, which administrators must give effect to, and the FNDC adopted a fees and charges policy in which hire rates for reserves were set.
Ratepayers have requested information about revenue raised from hiring, leasing and licences for use or occupation of particular reserves, given it's meant to contribute to a reserves fund to further the purposes of the Act. In the case of the Paihia Village Green, Kerikeri Domain and Walls Bay Reserve (Ōpua), the council was unable to provide information about revenue from ongoing private, commercial and club uses of each reserve. This suggests revenue raised has been not deposited in any reserves fund or was not charged in the first place.
This past decade we've also seen the revocation of several well-appointed reserves' status, followed quickly by divestment to enable some commercial development, including in central Kerikeri, Kawakawa and Paihia. These sales raised nothing for the reserves fund. Each process and resultant decision was a cost to ratepayers.
The inaugural plan for the Kerikeri Domain says it provides flexibility (vague), such that one can't be certain what exactly is to be delivered, where, when and by whom. However, $800,000 is demanded this year from ratepayers for activities associated with the domain, even though the damaged pavilion is to be demolished.
This could all be inconsequential, if not for the ongoing disputes over the appropriate use or development of reserves, disputes that have cost the council (ratepayers) more than $1 million in six years, as the council aligned with one side to vanquish the other.
Oddly, our council's opponents have tended to be emergent groups of locals representing 'the public interest,' when they've perceived an imminent threat to a reserve's purpose and the usurping of public interests, meant to be preserved under the Reserves Act. The role of our council in facilitating the purposes of this Act appears to have been lost in translation.
That private and commercial interests do covet our finite, well-appointed public spaces is unsurprising. These reserves were relatively free of 'unnecessary' development because previous generations of elected representatives respected, valued and protected them. What is perplexing is why other interests are now accommodated, or are even enabled and facilitated by our council, via revocation and divestment, or via out-sourcing of management to trustees.