Hawke's Bay's Sikh community descended on Hastings District Council on Monday to make their voice heard, after an application to build a new gurudwara (place of assembly and worship) outside Hastings was declined.
200 people packed into council chambers for an appeal after the council
declined consent for the new temple on "plains production zoned" Richmond Rd land.
Councillors George Lyons, Tania Kerr and Bayden Barber listened as various members of the Sikh community stood up to make their case.
Jasmeet Singh said Hawke's Bay's gurudwara was, and would be, more than just a place of worship.
"In 2009 my family moved to Hawke's Bay. At the time we were the only Sikh family in Napier," he told the hearings committee meeting.
"When we came here, I felt pressure to change because I was treated differently because I was a Sikh, wore a turban and looked different to others.
"I was 10 or 11 at the time. I spoke to my parents and to the priest at the temple and they encouraged me to embrace my faith and my culture.
"Now there is a larger Sikh community here in Hawke's Bay and some of them may be having similar experiences.
"I believe that a new purpose-built facility may be more attractive to those young people, and my hope is that they will go there to get the same help and support I received 10 years ago.
"To this day I am a proud Sikh."
Spokesperson for the Sikh council and the New Zealand Sikh Society Lara Blomfield attempted to rebuff prior council arguments for declining the consent.
"For many years the Sikh community has made do with its existing temple site in Eastbourne St, Hastings.
"Although it is a much loved and well used place of worship, the Sikh community's numbers have steadily increased over the years, and as a result they have outgrown the site."
Blomfield said the gurudwara was now bulging at times of worship and prayer, and it was "a struggle to find room for everyone".
"The site is also not ideal for other reasons. It does not have an area where children can safely play.
"It has no parking. It is difficult for people to find a park near the temple on a Sunday when it is at its busiest."
Director of consultancy firm Stradegy Planning, Cameron Drury , said that the use of versatile soil for activities other than land production has, and always will, occur in the region.
"In addition to the multitude of hospitality activities across the Plans, examples include the Regional Sport Park and even the Whakatu Arterial."
He said the area on which the site is located has been identified for future industrial/business growth for the 2015-2045 period.
During her right of reply, consents planner for HDC Rowena Macdonald said she had not heard any evidence which she felt made the site unique, and therefore stood by her original assessment that the consent should not be granted.
She also said decisions around the exact boundaries of future business and industrial developments had not been decided, with the current area defined for development a guideline.
"There is not definite knowledge of what that future industrial extension is going to look like."
The Richmond Rd was bought by the society in 2010, following a check by a lawyer that said in district plans, "places of assembly" was a permitted activity on the site, Blomfield said.
They entered into a sale and purchase agreement to buy the land in early July 2010.
"The land was in the Plains zone but in the 2013 Hastings District Plan there were rules for district-wide activities", he said.
"Section 13.5 listed 'marae and places of assembly' as permitted activities in any zone in the district, which was important factor in the site purchase," Blomfield said.
The purchase was completed on August 12, 2010.
The Proposed Hastings District Plan, which came into effect in September 2015, made it a non-complying activity for new Places of Assembly to establish in rural areas.
The resource consent application for the temple was lodged with council in May 2018.
A decision on the appeal is expected in 15 days.