An area of wasteland on the shores of Lake Rotorua looks set to be restored if Rotorua's mayor is re-elected, although she admits she has no idea how much the project would cost.
Steve Chadwick has joined forces with deputy mayor Dave Donaldson to pledge to restore the wasteland of "significant cultural and economical value' with important environmental aspects in the next term of council, if re-elected.
She said they would look at replanting and building new tracks in the area.
The pair made the announcement today to tie in with Conservation Week.
The area between the Sudima and Puarenga Stream known as Te Arikiroa, or the Sanatorium Reserve, has been neglected ever since it was used as a dump prior to the development of the landfill, Mrs Chadwick said.
"We have been reminded by many locals and iwi that this was once a pristine ecological site with wetlands and rich biodiversity prior to years of degradation. It is full of buried and dumped car bodies and other waste."
Mrs Chadwick said hearing Te Tatou o Te Arawa chairman Te Taru White discuss the area at a Lakes Water Quality AGM in 2013 - and the possible impacts of the waste leaching into the lake on water quality - made her want to take action.
"It is a wasteland and could be a beautiful ecosystem.
"It could link that whole area from Ngapuna through to Government Gardens.
"We have certainly gained interest outside of Rotorua for this initiative and will be seeking external partnership funding and support for this project."
She said she and Mr Donaldson had discussed the project with a majot New Zealand company which had signalled an interest to be involved as a partner for an inner city restoration project and had approved a Statement of Intent to be part of the collaborative planning moving forward.
Mrs Chadwick said she had no idea how much the restoration would cost as it hadn't been priced yet.
She said it linked in with the upgrade of the waste water treatment plant. The discharge into an earth contact bed and rock cascade leading into an existing drain into Puarenga Bay would be a feature of the restoration when a resource consent was granted, Mrs Chadwick said.
This first stage of the project will also include restoration of the BMX site once it moves to its new facility at the entrance way to the Waipa mountain bike park.
"This will be an exciting project that will inspire us as a community as have other environmental projects like the clean up of the Puarenga Stream and community clean ups at Hamurana and the forest.
"If we are truly to be known as a destination noted for our beautiful lakes and spectacular geothermal features we need to get moving together," Mrs Chadwick said.
Rotorua's other mayoral candidates respond:
Whilst restoration of the Sanatorium Reserve is a noble long-term conservation objective, reality says that by uncovering the old rubbish dump we could be in for some very nasty surprises, not the least of which would be the many millions of dollars I suspect such a clean-up project would cost dealing with all the buried highly toxic contaminants put there before we knew about such things. Millions of dollars we just do not have as we are already $11 million short in the Long Term Plan for the $29 million wastewater plant upgrade for which only $18 million has been budgeted.
I also understand disturbing old tip sites can potentially do more damage to the environment than leaving them safely buried.
This would need to be thoroughly investigated requiring an environmental impact study and detailed RMA section 32 cost-benefit analysis before embarking on any such project.
I would have thought a return to cleaning up the rubbish on our roadsides would have been a more practical and realistic objective for Conservation Week.
This proposal is, in my opinion, a silly stunt. Councillor Glenys Searancke confirmed she was not aware of any consultation on this with current councillors.
Councillor Peter Bentley showed me where landfill was used in the 1960s to cover what had been the city dump and to create the BMX track. He also recalled how the event centre excavations resulted in huge cost over runs when they uncovered toxic waste. He pointed out where the foundations of the discontinued sanatorium build had been buried after World War II, and then, how the whole area had been magnificently beautified.
So please don't vote for what in my view is a gimmick that could add tens of millions of dollars to council debt and open up an ecological nightmare. In my opinion, it appears to have been conjured up to distract voters.
Is council using this particular area for a backdoor airport access to create a new REA? Is it in honour of our famous Rotorua-born aviator Miss Jean Batten? I would like transparency and accountability around this please. If it's about Jean Batten, yup! I'm all for it.
On the face of it the proposal to clean up the Sanatorium Reserve appears to have some merit. The land has some historical significance to Rotorua and would be a great link between the existing eastside recreational spots and the city/lakefront area.
I would be very concerned about the consequences of disturbing the land and this must be investigated thoroughly before any other action could take place. I see this as a long term project, and not an election issue, it makes good sense to clean up our environment at any stage of a council's term.
If an investigation was to confirm that a safe clean up could proceed, I would seek outside financial support prior to undertaking any of the work. I believe that it would be foolish to commit to any clean up unless the process was safe and affordable.