First came the Hollywood blockbuster Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Now comes a local protest campaign, three billboards near Takapuna, Auckland.
Trish Deans of Heart of Takapuna says her organisation had the signs made and erected during the weekend to raise public awareness about its fight against Auckland Council's plans to sell the Anzac St, Takapuna carpark for development.
"Of course," said Deans when asked if she had seen the movie starring Frances McDormand as Mildred Hayes protesting against the lack of progress on the investigation of her daughter's rape and murder.
Panuku Developments Auckland planned to sell the land but options are being considered.
David Rankin, Panuku chief operating officer, said today: "Panuku has undertaken consultation on the shape, size and location of the town square and we will soon be going back out to the community to discuss options. It is the public's democratic right to express their views on this whether as part, or outside, of the consultation process."
James Hassall, the council's general counsel, said on June 25 that an undertaking had been given not to enter into an unconditional sale and purchase agreement of the carpark until a local resident's legal proceedings seeking a permanent sale prohibition were determined. A hearing was about six weeks away, he said late last month.
Legal strategist Miriam Clements wants the carpark and public open space where Sunday markets are held to remain in public ownership. She is seeking a judicial review of the council's planned sale. So she took the council to court in Auckland. Justice Kit Toogood issued an interim decision in February saying: "The property at 40 Anzac St, Takapuna shall not be sold pending further order of the court."
Heart of Takapuna says the land is still under threat and its billboards ask people to join its campaign. And while Deans acknowledges the local protest is quite different to the Hollywood movie's central theme, she hopes the billboards will raise awareness.
"There's a serious message underlying the film and a spirit of defiance reflected in it. I don't particularly identify with the [Frances McDormand] character. It's more the struggle and finding a way to bring people's attention to this," she said of a campaign
"Here's our clear message to Auckland Council: until the heart of Takapuna is safe, we will not be silent. We will fight to save our public land from council's plans to sell it off," she said.