Monday, August 8, 2022
Advertisment

Rotorua reserve hearings heat up

  Public Interest Journalism funded by NZ on Air

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick took “offence” to phrasing from submitters on the second day of hearings on the council’s controversial reserves proposal, leading to one person cutting his submission short.

It was the second of four days of hearings on the proposal, which could see 10 reserve sites across the city sold to Kāinga Ora, private developers and community housing providers.

Making his submission on the proposal on Tuesday, Ian Pound said he believed the council “and specifically the leadership” had “been deceitful and tried to mislead the people of Rotorua” regarding the proposal.

That drew the first point of order from Chadwick. Committee chairwoman Merepeka Raukawa-Tait asked Pound to “modify” his language.

“’Deceitful’, I’m not going to allow that.”

Pound said the word could be found in the dictionary.

Raukawa-Tait said she knew what it meant but said it did not apply.

Pound said the new council, after the October election, should make the decision about whether to proceed with the proposal.

The next point of order came as Pound began to suggest something “the mayor should have done”.

Chadwick said he was “making it personal”.

“I take offence.”

Pound said it appeared he had to “pick and choose parts” of his submission to “accommodate the mayor”.

He then began to discuss the return of land to mana whenua, drawing a point of order from councillor Mercia Yates for “relevance”.

Pound then left the hearing.

Raukawa-Tait said Pound “must remain on message” as he left the room.

Chadwick said her offence was “based on the misinformation that was fed to the public which has caused this anxiety and distress”.

Raukawa-Tait said there was “a lot of misinformation”.

“It goes to the heart of it, that if our community is so gullible to pick up on misinformation … then when we try to correct [them] they get upset about.

“If you don’t have the right information, if you don’t have the time to source it, then so be it.”

Submitter Neill Kennedy told the hearing the council did not listen to the public, and Raukawa-Tait told him to “stay on message”.

Kennedy said Rotorua was being “run down”.

“The land belongs to the people of Rotorua. It doesn’t belong to you councillors to knock it off.”

He said parts of Rotorua would become the “crime capital” and “slums”.

Chadwick called a point of order for “use of words”.

“[It’s] offensive to call it slums.”

Kennedy said there was “nothing wrong with the language, it’s just to the point, so let me finish”.

“Most of you people, I hope you don’t make it back in on the next election.”

That drew another point of order from Chadwick.

Kennedy said, in his opinion: “The legacy that you’ll leave Rotorua, it goes from the penthouse to the craphouse in two years. Contemplate that.”

Western Heights Community Association chairman Owen Roberts also presented to the committee.

“I’ve come here today to try to convince you not sell off the land used as reserves in this city, or should I say, don’t steal our land. You’re supposed to be the guardians of our city, not the thieves.”

That drew a point of order from Chadwick.

Chadwick said: “I take offence at the word that we are thieves.”

Roberts said he viewed it as “the theft of land from the community”.

“This is land that has been set aside over many years for use by the community and to be kept in perpetuity. What gives this council the right to dispose of these green areas of land put aside by our forebears?”

He said the group would like to see the council improve the reserves, particularly Turner Dr Reserve.

Robert Lee gave a submission on behalf of the Rotorua residents and ratepayers group.

He said it was an “abhorrent proposal” and the group opposed the revocation of nine out of ten of the reserves as it accepted the position of the Fordlands community association, which supported the revocation of Wrigley Rd Reserve.

“For many generations people have made investment decisions in their properties … and they’ve created a vibe, a culture, within each of these neighbourhoods.”

He claimed property values had “diminished” as a result of the proposal’s publication.

“This is a serious matter and it’s not good enough to write them off as NIMBYs.”

NIMBY stands for “not in my backyard”.

“The public of Rotorua are telling you that this is not in their best interest, and I trust you’re listening.”

Lee said, in his opinion, decisions were being “made in secret, in … elected member workshops”.

Chadwick and Yates called points of order, both citing “relevance”.

Lee said it was “entirely relevant because this is how decisions are being made in [the] council.

“Predetermination of decisions is entirely relevant … how you got to this stage is incredibly relevant.”

Raukawa-Tait said Lee’s time was up and Lee had made his point.

Once Lee had left the table, councillor Raj Kumar said the hearing looked “like an ugly rugby match where either the referee or linespeople are not allowing the game to flow though”.

“I think it would be nice if it was flowing and we allowed them to speak and only raised points of order … if they were disrespectful.”

There was some support for the reserves proposal on Tuesday, from Ko Te Tuara Totara O Fordlands, the Fordlands Community Centre.

Manager Ana Phillips told the committee the group supported the revocation and development of part of the Wrigley Rd Reserve as long as the council committed to working in partnership with it.

She said the involvement of external housing providers and property investors had a negative effect on the community and it required local community guidance for developments to be a success and “make sure it doesn’t become a slum”.

The council has previously said no decisions had been made and community feedback would be used to assist with decision-making about whether to proceed and how.

Hearings will continue on Thursday and again on Monday next week.