Bat­tle of do­main drags on

South Waikato News - - FRONT PAGE - By LIBBY KIS­SICK

WIN­TEC Jour­nal­ism Stu­dent A de­lay by the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion has meant the South Waikato District Coun­cil has been un­able to move for­ward in its plan­ning for the 5.56ha Ti­rau do­main.

The prob­lem arose when cen­tral Govern­ment ruled in 2009 to in­tro­duce the 1977 Re­serves Act that shifted own­er­ship from the coun­cil to the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion.

South Waikato District Mayor Neil Sin­clair is well aware of the present sit­u­a­tion and said it was not un­til the coun­cil went out for a pub­lic ten­der (in 2009) that they re­alised how much the depart­ment was in­volved with the land site.

Mr Sin­clair said he had been try­ing to get a de­ci­sion from the depart­ment on do­main own­er­ship.

From 1997 a re­serve man­age­ment plan for the Ti­rau pad­dock has been up the coun­cil’s sleeve but can­not be acted on un­til the depart­ment comes back with a de­ci­sion.

‘‘I can un­der­stand DOC’S po­si­tion, they are man­ag­ing very big re­serves and then there is our lit­tle Ti­rau Do­main,’’ Mr Sin­clair said. ‘‘We have to work out how to nul­lify ex­tra costs to ratepay­ers and still utilise and main­tain the do­main.

‘‘ The own­er­ship con­ces­sion needs to be clar­i­fied. I can only do things the law al­lows me to do and at present, the law is DOC. Un­til then I am stymied.

‘‘Let me own it. Let us turn around and work with the Ti­rau com­mu­nity and if we can get it done in the next cou­ple of years, I will be a very happy mayor.’’

Coun­cil re­gional ser­vices man­ager Richard Fisk said the coun­cil was try­ing to find a lease re­place­ment at the time of the changeover.

The depart­ment has since said South Waikato District Coun­cil did not au­to­mat­i­cally have a right to choose the leasee.

How­ever, Mr Fisk said the depart­ment was happy to have the coun­cil han­dle it in the mean­time. ‘‘The process is null and void, it had to be or­gan­ised by DOC and it hasn’t.’’

As far as the coun­cil is con­cerned they had a new lease owner lined up and the depart­ment has al­lowed the agree­ment to pro­ceed un­der the coun­cil’s guid­ance.

But both coun­cil and depart­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives say the terms of man­age­ment for the do­main are yet to be ap­proved.

DOC Waikato com­mu­nity re­la­tions of­fi­cer Trevor Ir­win con­firmed the depart­ment had yet to fi­nalise a de­ci­sion.

The de­layed process has been met with crit­i­cism from lo­cals, in­clud­ing dis­grun­tled do­main user Mark May who said dog own­ers and walk­ers who usu­ally went to the do­main had opted to use Prospect Ave. ‘‘Ev­ery time I see those locks on the gate it’s like a red rag to the bull.’’

The land was leased to Richard Stratton, who had sheep and ac­cord­ing to com­mu­nity mem­bers was very good at keep­ing it ac­ces­si­ble to dog walk­ers and the pub­lic.

While a mem­ber of the Ti­rau and Lichfield do­main com­mu­nity board, Mr May ar­gued against the land be­ing leased to a pri­vate gra­zier with horses.

Former Ti­rau Pony Club chair­man Craig Os­borne said the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of the club which used to use the do­main, was of great con­cern.

‘‘The Pony Club has gone into re­cess fol­low­ing a de­crease in mem­bers.’’

Mr Os­borne said the locks on the gate had ‘‘put mem­bers off and ev­ery­one got the pip’’.

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