Council accused of 'dereliction of duty' over park

Wanaka man Noel Williams holds a sticker he produced in 1995 which opposed plans to build a town...
Wanaka man Noel Williams holds a sticker he produced in 1995 which opposed plans to build a town hall in Wanaka's Pembroke Park. Other objectors included (back, from left) Fr Brian Fenton, John Blennerhassett, Loris King (all of Wanaka), David Whiteside, of Waiwera, June Hyde, of Wanaka, Keith Whiteside, of Christchurch, and Neville Findlater, of Wanaka. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
The Queenstown Lakes District Council has been accused of ''dereliction of duty'' in its management of Pembroke Park, on Wanaka's lakefront.

Twelve submitters spoke at a hearing in Wanaka yesterday, all but one of them in opposition to a QLDC proposal for 94 angled car parks on the Brownston St side of Pembroke Park.

The car-parking plan, which requires a 4.3m reserve encroachment, is one of three amendments proposed for the park's 2007 reserve management plan. It prompted more than 60 objections from 85 submissions made to the QLDC.

''If the council were in the military it could be charged with dereliction of duty,'' Wanaka man Noel Williams told councillors Leigh Overton and Jude Battson and Wanaka Community Board member Dick Kane, who were appointed to hear submissions.

Mr Williams shared the view of most submitters the proposal was contrary to the council's legal obligations as the park's guardian, under the Reserves Act 1977 - which required the council to promote the retention of open spaces. Objectors stressed the Crown, not the council, owned the reserve.

''You don't have access to the park; it's not yours. It's got to be treated the same as any other property you're not allowed to touch,'' Mr Williams said.

Brownston St property owner David Whiteside agreed ''only the owner can authorise changes to the boundaries of a property''.

The park's management plan only allows parking to be created on the reserve if it is specifically for park users - unless the land is redesignated. However, the plan also acknowledges the sealed parking area for 136 cars at the Dungarvon St end of the reserve is used mostly by CBD workers or visitors ''rather than bona fide park users''.

The proposed Brownston St car parks would be similarly used and were therefore a short-term fix for the council's failure to plan for CBD car parking or to require CBD developers to provide or pay levies for parking, submitters said. Cr Overton repeatedly asked submitters to refrain from discussing CBD parking problems, which were ''irrelevant'' to the recommendation the panel was required to make.

However, Mr Williams said the two were ''intrinsically linked''.

Cr Overton said the messy Brownston St side of the park needed tidying up, and the proposal was ''a means to achieve that as well''.

''It's a very convenient mess,'' Mr Williams responded, arguing the area could easily be tidied up and parallel parking - rather than angle parking - created at any time, without touching the park.

Mr Williams was ''not that comfortable'' that the hearing panel was comprised of councillors and community board members, rather than independent commissioners.

''You have had a chance to vote against this proposal.

''You didn't do so, so you have shown your preference.''

John Coe also questioned the panel's objectivity, since two of its members had been involved with the approval of the Dungarvon St car park. Cr Overton said the three panel members had ''kept out of'' council and community board deliberations on the latest car parking proposal.

Loris King, member of the Friends of Pembroke Park group, said previous encroachments on the park had diminished the council's position of trust.

''I find [the proposal] almost like trying to invent ways to get around their obligations ... It's almost tantamount to a licence to plunder.

''There's just no justification for it,'' Mrs King said.

Former Wanaka Community Board member Carrick Jones suggested a compromise, which involved taking 2m of Pembroke Park for car parking, while widening the residential side of Brownston St.

Fr Brian Fenton said the proposal was a ''shallow smokescreen'' to provide more parking for the CBD.

- lucy.ibbotson@odt.co.nz

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