Consultation goes long way to good results

A digital image previews the appearance of the proposed softball clubrooms at Ellis Park, looking east.
A digital image previews the appearance of the proposed softball clubrooms at Ellis Park, looking east.
Ellis Park neighbours Kerry and Elizabeth Goodhew express their frustration at the planned location and style for softball clubrooms at Ellis Park, and at what they see as a lack of Dunedin City Council consultation and poor processes.

We wish to say for the fourth time that we are not opposed to clubrooms on Ellis Park. We never have been.

All three of our submissions from October, two written and one oral at the consent hearing, opened clearly and firmly with comment that: ''We fully agree that softball should have a clubrooms and toilet facilities in the vicinity of Ellis Park.''

Next year we will have loved living here 20 years, and all we have asked is that the clubrooms and toilets not be placed in front of our homes.

If you walk/jog/bike/ride a horse along Frasers Rd, and hundreds enjoy doing this, stand at the children's playground, hundreds use this, and look up the park to imagine two gulag-style prefab buildings joined together two storeys high park-side, on rows of telegraph poles extending 33m into the park, to obliterate the beautiful ''green-scape'' view up the park. Is there anybody else in this city (other than council staff or softball interests) who really thinks that this is the right thing to do at that location?

One of the senior officers from the council itself, the landscape architect, does not think so. He states: ''The visual character would be adversely affected'' and ''what is now a balanced visual outlook viewed from the playing field or Frasers Rd would be downgraded''. Read ''ruined''.

One of our primary objectives is to see Ellis Park kept beautiful, to champion her improvements with removal of the old shed, and not to accept her denigration by a poorly placed ugly structure.

The issue has gone all the way to a consent hearing since the council wants to break numerous of its own rules and values set down in city ordinances for preservation of green reserves.

Apart from damaging the view, this location for softball will bring many other issues including bumping off children from using the playground equipment since teams gather there now and would more so with clubrooms on top of it. This happened the very next day after I described the problem at the hearing, with two little girls arriving to find adult men in the playground, resulting in them turning around their bikes and going home. Any other location on the park would reduce or eliminate all of the other issues.

It was our submission to locate the building elsewhere for all but one of the suggested locations. Before a meeting and our submission, council staff had not considered other places elsewhere on Ellis Park as there is no statement to that effect in the application. Our suggestions were a surprise to them. We are not ''nimbys''. Our current preferred location is one of the two the consent hearing commissioner has requested be investigated, which is actually just over from our backyard.

We would not care if it was three storeys high in this location. There would be no need for excavation. Built with some design ingenuity, one prefab atop the other with a balcony extending from between them, this would look directly on to the batter and pitcher just 10 or so metres away. It would be an exclusive small grandstand and far superior to the proposed location.

If the council, which spearheaded this, had heeded our legitimate concerns and alternative location requests from the beginning, four months ago, by involving and working with the community as a whole to satisfy all interests, rather than to satisfy just one group over everyone else, in a style that has promoted social division, Softball would have been in its own clubrooms before Christmas.

Progress by community consensus is how it was done in the small seaside village of 300, Muirwai, near Auckland, where I was born and raised, where parents and older generations built a surf club, golf course, horse park and ride, tennis/netball courts, fire station. No railroading over residents' concerns.

Although about 10 times more people live there now, it is still a small population that is right now building New Zealand's biggest most innovative surf club, interestingly, built by Naylor Love, of Dunedin. There is no end to what a small community can build together if there is fair consideration and compromise. There seems quite a cultural attitude difference between councils here and there.

Call me old fashioned, I believe if you move into a neighbourhood you should try to get on with the neighbours, especially if you want to make significant changes, and especially when they have formally welcomed your plans in principle.



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