Floodwater collection area among ideas for land

The future of Forbury Park in Dunedin is a matter of conjecture. PHOTO: GERARD O'BRIEN
The future of Forbury Park in Dunedin is a matter of conjecture. PHOTO: GERARD O'BRIEN
A floodwater collection area, wetlands and housing are a few ideas for what the Dunedin City Council should do with its substantial new property, Forbury Park. But some people wish it was still a raceway.

The city council announced last week it had bought the 11.76ha property in St Kilda from Harness Racing New Zealand for $13.2 million.

The former home of the Forbury Park Trotting Club is expected to be used to help South Dunedin manage its vulnerability to water problems amid climate change, and potentially for some housing, but Dunedin Mayor Jules Radich has said all options are on the table.

South Dunedin Community Network spokeswoman Eleanor Doig was glad the land had come into community ownership.

The park could be a useful addition to the "toolbox" for helping South Dunedin adapt to climate change, she said.

"We have to learn to live with water around us, rather than fighting against it", Ms Doig said.

"I’m dreaming of wetlands ... basically a sump for South Dunedin ... It would be really nice if, as part of the wetlands, there were walkways and resting areas.

"Perhaps around the edges there could be housing - climate-adaptive housing.

"I think the potential is enormous, because it’s a big area."

The Otago Daily Times received mixed feedback about what should be done with Forbury Park.

Paul Jeffery suggested a transport and technology theme park, or heritage park.

Pat Stedman recalled that in 2021 Otago Polytechnic student Georgia Pope won the New Zealand Institute of Architects Southern Branch Student Award for a concept that envisaged restoring a wetland at the Forbury Park raceway and the neighbouring Kettle Park.

As well as paths and boardwalks, her design included a community centre comprising a series of connected and standalone spaces for scientific, educational, recreational and retail purposes.

Mary Robertson did not want to see any council vanity projects and she said developers had presented good ideas.

"Let the people who are skilled in developing large projects take the responsibility", she said.

Peter Ashcroft, of Mosgiel, expected the council would have already done its due diligence and worked out how much land was needed to help in flood mitigation and climate adaptation.

The remainder should be publicised for upcoming sale to private developers, he said.

Charlie Wilson wanted most of the land to be leased back to the trotting club.

However, water could be collected in the middle of the track and pumped across the road to the beach, he said.

"Put it back into a trotting track", Bill Milne agreed.

Forbury Park had its final race in 2021, after it had been deemed surplus to the racing industry’s requirements.