Bat­tle over park use

Waikato Times - - News - Libby Wil­son libby.wil­[email protected]

A bat­tle has bro­ken out in Whanga­mata¯ over whether a lo­cal park should host com­mer­cial con­certs.

The out­come could shape New Year’s Eve cel­e­bra­tions in the sum­mer hot-spot, as pri­vately-pro­moted events have been barred from Wil­liamson Park over the peak pe­riod.

A past con­cert or­gan­iser says un­con­trolled, untick­eted events will lead to the un­ruly be­hav­iour Whanga­mata¯ ex­pe­ri­enced in the past.

How­ever, many lo­cals want to keep the se­cu­rity fences and noise lev­els down, and leave the park open for the pub­lic to use.

Wil­liamson Park is a fo­cal point for sum­mer events in Whanga­mata¯ . How­ever, any­thing which draws a crowd of more than 500 now needs re­source con­sent, af­ter a rule change at Thames-Coro­man­del Dis­trict Coun­cil.

Coun­cil ap­plied for con­sent for 15 years of events and said none over the Christ­mas and New Year pe­riod would be pri­vately run, as the town is al­ready at ca­pac­ity.

An in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sioner ap­proved that in Novem­ber 2018, but now Whanga­mata¯ -based pro­moter Manolo Echave­has ap­pealed the de­ci­sion.

Given the ‘‘es­ca­lat­ing sit­u­a­tion of vi­o­lence and al­co­hol-re­lated in­ci­dents in Wil­liamson Park over the pre­vi­ous years’’, pro­fes­sion­als must run New Year’s Eve events, Echave wrote in an ear­lier sub­mis­sion.

He con­tracted per­form­ers for the 2017 New Year’s con­cert, which he said was an out­stand­ing suc­cess and re­duced the work­load for med­i­cal staff and po­lice.

‘‘It is ironic that the com­mu­nity sought a so­lu­tion to the in­creas­ingly dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion that was de­vel­op­ing at Wil­liamson Park yet, when it was en­acted, they now ... be­lieve re­turn­ing to the po­ten­tial al­co­hol abuse and vi­o­lence of pre­vi­ous years is the way for­ward,’’ he wrote.

Or­gan­is­ers moved fenc­ing af­ter each event to open up more of the park and had just one for­mal noise com­plaint, he said, but there had been a cam­paign of mis­in­for­ma­tion against the con­cert.

Coun­cil’s con­sent ap­pli­ca­tion gen­er­ated keen de­bate and 191 sub­mis­sions, com­mis­sioner P H Cooney wrote in his Novem­ber de­ci­sion. Ninety-six sub­mit­ters were op­posed, 81 in sup­port, 11 partly in sup­port, and three neu­tral.

‘‘No­body dis­putes the park should not con­tinue to be used for com­mu­nity ac­tiv­i­ties and events,’’ Cooney wrote. ‘‘The type of events to be al­lowed is where the dis­pute lies.’’

Op­po­nents wanted to stop pri­vately pro­moted events in­volv­ing re­stricted ac­cess, Cooney wrote.

Dur­ing tick­eted events, only at­ten­dees would be able to en­joy the park, a sub­mis­sion from the Friends of Wil­liamson Park So­ci­ety plan­ning con­sul­tant Ken­neth Tre­maine said. Nearby res­i­dents – from the so­ci­ety and in­di­vid­u­als – sub­mit­ted about ‘‘ex­ces­sively loud mu­sic and dis­or­derly be­hav­iour’’ af­ter the 2017 con­cert.

How­ever, coun­cil said its ap­pli­ca­tion bal­anced the so­cial and eco­nomic ben­e­fits of con­certs with pro­tect­ing pub­lic park use and nearby res­i­dents.

Coun­cil could legally ap­prove com­mer­cial con­certs in part of Wil­liamson Park, and had plans to min­imise the im­pact of fenc­ing and re­strict crowd num­bers, coun­cil’s lawyer Lachlan Mul­downey sub­mit­ted.

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CHRISTEL YARDLEY/STUFF

Lo­cals said the con­certs were too noisy and fenced off too much of the park at the height of the hol­i­day sea­son.

TOM LEE/STUFF

Wil­liamson Park is a fo­cal point for events - and for teenagers to gather. Pic­tured is a group in 2017.

A Whanga­mata¯ based pro­moter has now ap­pealed the de­ci­sion to keep re­stricted-en­try events out of the park over the hol­i­day pe­riod. Pic­tured is a 2014 New Year’s Eve event.

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