Bowling land battle brews
The first step has been taken in a legal process that could allow the Palmerston North City Council to sell a protected reserve.
The council has advertised its intention to promote a law change to release former Manawatu¯ Bowling Club land on the corner of Park Rd and Fitzherbert Ave from a clause banning its sale, except to the Crown.
Last year the council heard public submissions about the future use of the land it refers to as the Huia St reserve.
The consultation was around the council’s preferred option to develop the land for mediumdensity housing to help resolve the city’s shortage of homes.
About 80 people had their say, with more than half, some representing large groups, adamantly opposed to the proposal. For city reserve defenders, such as the Railway Land Action Group, the council’s notification launches them back into fighting a battle they won before, in 2007.
Back then the Palmerston North Reserves Empowering Amendment Bill made it as far as a select committee, where a group including city resident Marilyn Bulloch successfully argued there had been no consultation and there was no community support for the change. The committee advised the council to withdraw the bill, which it did.
Bulloch said she would be watching the process closely for an opportunity to speak in defence of the reserve again.
This time, the council has been through a consultation process, and in November, less than unanimously, it adopted its preferred option to enable the development of housing, including the potential for a mixed-use housing development with supporting recreational and small-scale commercial activity.
The majority of councillors argued the council needed to take leadership in providing land for housing and showing how more homes could be provided by moving away from traditional-style subdivisions.
Mayor Grant Smith said the reserve, which had been vacant for 15 years, was only growing weeds.
He said given the site’s proximity to the Esplanade and Ongley Park, the area a couple of blocks out from the city centre was not short of green space.
The council directed chief executive Heather Shotter to start the process for amendments to be made to the 1966 law that prevents sale of the reserve land.
The proposed amendment bill is available for people to view at the council customer service centre, and online, until August 13.
After that, Palmerston North MP Tangi Utikere would be asked to present the bill in Parliament and it would be referred to a select committee.
The public would then be able to make submissions.
In additional notes about the bill, acting city planner Michael Duindam said it was just the first step to allow potential development of the land for housing.
‘‘It doesn’t determine the type of development and-or ownership of the land.’’
If the amendment were successful, the council would debate future plans and make decisions in a public meeting.