Res­i­dent fights for pub­lic ac­cess to re­serve

Bay of Plenty Times - - Local News - Saman­tha Mo­tion Bay of Plenty Times Week­end In­set:

AWel­come Bay res­i­dent is fight­ing for pub­lic ac­cess to a water­front re­serve that con­tains pri­vate fences, land­scap­ing and plant­ing.

Chris Dodds’ cam­paign to have decades of “en­croach­ments” — in­clud­ing fences across the re­serve, hard land­scap­ing and dense plant­ing — re­moved from For­rester Drive Es­planade Re­serve has now reached Tau­ranga City Coun­cil af­ter find­ing sup­port on com­mu­nity Face­book groups.

Res­i­dents on For­rester Drive, how­ever, say the struc­tures, paid for and main­tained by prop­erty own­ers, were in­tended to slow ero­sion, strengthen sea­walls and in­crease se­cu­rity, as well as to beau­tify and pro­tect a ne­glected re­serve never used as a walk­way — not to keep peo­ple out.

Dodds said some of the en­croach­ments were in his opin­ion “egre­gious”.

In an Oc­to­ber pre­sen­ta­tion to Tau­ranga City coun­cil­lors, he said a board­walk along the es­planade was the dream, but at the least the ob­struc­tions should go and the land be made ac­ces­si­ble to the pub­lic.

“This would re­quire a rea­son­ably small in­vest­ment from the coun­cil, as the es­planade would be very walk­a­ble along al­most its en­tire length.”

Not so, res­i­dents.

“A board­walk/ cy­cle­way has been talked about for 20 years,” said Dr John Gem­ming, who has lived on For­rester Drive with wife Gill Gem­ming for 38 years.

“Ev­ery­one who lives here is aware that one day that will hap­pen. But even a sim­ple walk­way would cost hun­dreds of thou­sands.”

Struc­tures aside, mak­ing it walk­a­ble would re­quire re­tain­ing walls, flat­ten­ing of slopes, ero­sion mit­i­ga­tion, sea­walls re­pairs and deal­ing to over­grown veg­e­ta­tion, he said.

Like sev­eral other res­i­dents the say

spoke to — most of whom would not be named be­cause the tone of some Face­book threads (peo­ple talk­ing about pulling down fences) made them feel tar­geted — the Gem­mings knew it was coun­cil land and did not ob­ject to pub­lic ac­cess on prin­ci­ple.

Both said if the com­mu­nity wanted a board­walk they would look to sup­port it, how­ever they thought the ratepayer money would be bet­ter spent on more ur­gent prob­lems, such as Tur­ret Rd.

They cau­tioned against peo­ple vil­i­fy­ing prop­erty own­ers, say­ing they had been car­ing for the re­serve for decades, and the struc­tures had a long his­tory and were largely wellinten­tioned.

The Gem­mings said that in 1984 they got per­mis­sion from the har­bour board to re­place the sec­tion of fall­ing-down tim­ber sea­wall in front of their home with a con­toured stone wall to pro­tect the re­serve from ero­sion.

“Over the next decade lots of peo­ple also bol­stered their sea­walls,” John Gem­ming said.

He said in the mid-90s the coun­cil im­posed a wider set­back with “no con­sul­ta­tion”.

He had never seen the re­serve used as a walk­way but peo­ple had al­ways hap­pily walked along the beach at low tide and swum in the es­tu­ary in front of the houses.

Other res­i­dents de­scribed in­her­it­ing en­croach­ing struc­tures or de­cid­ing to do their own re­pairs or im­prove­ment af­ter storm dam­age, given au­thor­i­ties did not seem in­ter­ested.

Some had se­cu­rity con­cerns about in­creased pub­lic ac­cess, specif­i­cally around crime and an­ti­so­cial be­hav­iour in Tye Park spilling down their coast or mak­ing their houses eas­ier to reach by bur­glars, who al­ready tar­geted the area via the wa­ter.

Mark Smith, Tau­ranga City Coun­cil man­ager of parks and re­cre­ation, said the coun­cil was about to in­stall se­cu­rity cam­eras in Tye Park to dis­cour­age “bad be­hav­iour”.

He said the coun­cil was look­ing to bring for­ward sched­uled work to re­duce en­croach­ments in the Wel­come Bay area.

He said that process would in­volve look­ing at the his­tory of any struc­tures and en­gag­ing with res­i­dents and the com­mu­nity be­fore de­cid­ing next steps. MAIN PHOTO / JOHN BORREN PHOTO SUP­PLIED / CHRIS DODDS IM­AGE / TAU­RANGA CITY COUN­CIL MAP

Chris Dodds is bat­tling to have ob­struc­tions like this re­moved from the For­rester Drive Es­planade Re­serve. view down the es­tu­ary. A

The re­serve is a thin strip run­ning along the water­front par­al­lel to the For­rester Drive from Tye Park to Wel­come Bay Rd.

A Tau­ranga City Coun­cil-owned al­ley­way ex­its on to the es­tu­ary, with the re­serve fenced on ei­ther side.

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