Preschool is hemmed in
The extension of a Pukerua Bay preschool on to reserve land has seen Porirua City Council accused of not communicating properly with residents.
Wellington Free Kindergarten is proposing an extension to its building and carpark at 8 Wairaka Rd in Pukerua Bay.
High teacher costs and building repairs mean the preschool needs to increase its roll, and therefore its building size, to be financially viable.
However, the building is on council-owned Raroa Reserve and the preschool cannot get resource consent for its extension unless the council reclassifies part of the reserve, which at present is protected.
About 1500 square metres of land would be reclassified as a local purpose reserve for community use.
The council put the matter out for public consultation from May 24 to June 24 this year, placing newspaper ads and consulting with Pukerua Bay Residents’ Association.
Seven public submissions were received, six opposing the extension and one, from the residents’ association, expressing neutrality.
Pukerua Bay business ana- lyst Peter Gibbs, who lives next door to the preschool, took his opposition to last Thursday’s council meeting, chastising the council for its lack of communication about the issue.
‘‘If you’re going to reclassify areas of reserve make sure the community knows what’s going on,’’ he said.
‘‘An ad in the local rag that gets [thrown away] the next night is not a good way of communicating with residents.’’
Allowing reclassification for a commercial purpose was not an acceptable reason, Mr Gibbs said.
‘‘ It’s not a communitydriven project, it’s a commercially-driven project.’’
Children used the grass area behind the preschool to play cricket in summer, and it should remain a community space, Mr Gibbs said.
The extension of the building into the existing driveway would remove a turning bay for cars visiting the library, which would have to reverse out to the road, he said.
He also fears increasing the size of the preschool will result in high traffic of 30 to 60 cars a day.
‘‘This development cannot go forward. The disruption of access to the local community is high.’’
The RSA or Pukerua Bay School were more appropriate sites for the preschool, Mr Gibbs suggested.
Wellington Free Kindergarten took over management of the preschool in 2006 from Plunket, which had struggled to stay afloat.
The preschool can currently cater for 13 children each morning, which would increase to 30 if the extension went ahead.
When it first proposed the extension to the council in September last year, it had planned for a two-storey building but consultation with the residents’ association convinced it to remain a onestorey building, council resource planner for leisure assets Katie Brown said.
Raroa Reserve is currently classified as a scenic ‘‘a’’ reserve, an area of scenic interest and beauty to be protected and preserved in perpetuity.
However, current use of the area is already in contradiction to the reserve’s classification, Ms Brown says.
Technically the council should not mow the grass area behind the library, as it is not supposed to cut vegetation on scenic ‘‘a’’ reserves.
Preschool expansion: An architect’s plan shows the existing Wairaka St Preschool building, in red, and its proposed extension into Raroa Reserve land.