Forrester Heights: Report at odds with submissions

Forrester Heights in Oamaru. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Forrester Heights in Oamaru. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Despite the majority of submissions supporting reserve status for Forrester Heights, a report being presented to Waitaki District councillors today recommends a sale.

But the decision on the future of the 2.5ha of land overlooking Oamaru Harbour will ultimately come down to Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher and councillors, who are set to vote on the issue at today’s council meeting.

As part of the council’s public consultation process on the future of Forrester Heights, which ran from April 1 to May 16, the community was given three options to consider: try to make Forrester Heights a reserve, sell some or all of the land and use the funds to benefit the community, or leave it as it is for now — do nothing.

Of the 905 submissions received, about 70% supported reserve status, while 30% agreed to selling some or all of the land and using the funds for community benefit.

The submissions, which were heard by councillors at hearings on May 30 and 31, had been very helpful, Mr Kircher said.

"I do appreciate everyone who has made a submission, whatever their views were," he said.

"All of it helps us to form a decision; whether that’s with the majority or not, we’ll find out [today]."

There had been a lot of discussion among councillors on the different points raised in the submission process, but Mr Kircher did not know what position each councillor had taken.

Councillors could ask questions and debate the issue further today, before making their final decision, he said.

"At this stage, I don’t know how that vote is going to go."

The report to be tabled at today’s council meeting addresses a lot of the questions and concerns raised during the submissions process, and concludes that a sale of some or all of the land remains the preferred option.

A sale presented the least legal risk to the council, and was an accepted use of endowment land under the Local Government Act 2002, the report says. The market would set the price, and the council could opt to include certain restrictions on use and development of the land.

The report says changing Forrester Heights from endowment land to a reserve would require the council to have a local Bill passed in Parliament to create a new law.

"This process would involve significant investment in officer time and money and could take several years, with no guarantee that the Bill would be passed," it reads.

"The land would not be sold, so council would not have additional funds to use for purposes consistent with the endowments."

The council had been tasked with making the best decision for the district — environmentally, economically, socially and culturally — and addressing the legislative risk should also be balanced against addressing the reputational risk, the report says.




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