Most submissions support reserve

Forrester Heights. Photo: Rebecca Ryan
Forrester Heights. Photo: Rebecca Ryan
The majority of Waitaki residents submitting on the future of Forrester Heights support turning it into a reserve.

The Waitaki District Council yesterday released the agenda for next week’s submission hearings, including copies of the more than 900 submissions received.

As part of the one-and-a-half-month consultation process, the council gave the community three options to consider for the future of the 2.51ha of land overlooking Oamaru Harbour, and asked if they strongly agreed, agreed, disagreed, strongly disagreed or felt neutral about each one.

Of the 845 submitters who commented directly with either "agree", "neutral" or "disagree"on the three options, 68% agreed the council should make Forrester Heights a reserve, 30% agreed to selling some or all of the land and using the funds for community benefit, and just 21% were neutral in leaving it as it is for now.

The council also asked submitters how they would like to see money used, if the land was sold. Among the most popular options were helping to fund the new Waitaki Event Centre, creating a new reserve somewhere else in Oamaru and repaying debt.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said councillors had a "fair bit" of reading to do over the next few days, ahead of submission hearings on March 30 and 31.

He believed all councillors were motivated to make a final decision on Forrester Heights’ future, to stop the "ongoing debate every few years".

"It’s definitely been very good having the number of submissions that we’ve had," he said.

Councillors would be looking at not only the support for each option, but also the implications each one would have on the district.

"It’s [looking at] what are the benefits of selling, over and above the actual sale price, just as much as it is, what are the benefits of making it a reserve, over and above the cost of doing that?" he said.

"It’s weighing up those different aspects and looking at, how do we achieve the aspirations of our community when there is no one position?

"How do we find the right balance and get something that’s going to work? And, at the end of the day, that’s what we were elected for — to make decisions with the best judgement that we possibly can bring to the situation and looking at the feedback people have given us."

Sixty-three people requested to speak to their submissions at next week’s hearings. After hearings and deliberations, an additional council meeting to decide on the future of the Forrester Heights land will be held next month on June 7 or 14.

"Whatever the decision we make, we know that some people won’t be happy," Mr Kircher said.

"But the key thing is that we are listening to people, we’re looking at what they’ve got to say on the matter and we’re looking at all of the information we’ve got on it and coming up the best decision we possibly can."

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