Controversial harbour proposals still floating

Visitors to Oamaru Harbour watch a New Zealand fur seal basking near the breakwater this month. The Waitaki District Council has invited the public to ``attend and observe'' its next 30-year harbour plan workshop. Photo: Hamish MacLean
Visitors to Oamaru Harbour watch a New Zealand fur seal basking near the breakwater this month. The Waitaki District Council has invited the public to ``attend and observe'' its next 30-year harbour plan workshop. Photo: Hamish MacLean
Two controversial proposals - which raised fears the growing popularity of Oamaru Harbour could be undone by ad hoc decision-making - have not been explicitly addressed in harbour master plan proposals for public consultation.

Bids for a zipline at the harbour, then a floating hotel, divided opinion in the community before the master plan process began late last year.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said the Waitaki District Council's project team ''had fairly clear messages'' from the public on the issues.

''I have every expectation that the committee and the council will be listening very closely to what people are saying,'' Mr Kircher said.

''I have no doubt that we will end up with a plan which matches hopefully most people's aspirations.

''You can never anticipate every eventuality - if there are good guidelines then that helps for anything that hasn't been anticipated.

''In the case of those things, it would be hard to see how they might work. Having said that, as I've said to people: 'If the floating hotel is actually a sailing ship tied up at the wharf that people could stay in, would that be all right?'

''And for a good number of people, that would be fine. It's all a matter of context.''

When a first look at proposals for public consultation was published before a council harbour area committee meeting at the start of July, the ensuing backlash prompted a pause in the progress of the plan.

A rare public workshop was called so the committee could ''develop good options which the public can choose from, letting us know clearly what elements they want to see in the area, and what they don't'', Mr Kircher said.

Tomorrow's workshop, scheduled for three hours at the Oamaru Opera House, would focus on how proposals for consultation could ''better reflect the feedback that people have already given us''.

But he said he did not want to pre-empt what was decided at the coming meeting, and he could not say whether the two contentious proposals that preceded the master plan would be discussed.

The overwhelming sentiment expressed during a 10-person public forum in front of a full public gallery was that the community's wish to preserve the area's tranquillity in favour of development had been overlooked by planners' efforts to offset expected infrastructure costs of about $12 million over the next 30 years by commercial development.

The meeting had been called in keeping with the council's commitment to transparency, and to a robust consultation that respected a vigorous pre-consultation period late last year, Mr Kircher said.

At the July 2 meeting, Cr Bill Kingan said he did not want the harbour master plan become an election issue.

hamish.maclean@odt.co.nz

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