Battle of domain drags on
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’’.