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