At our Board meeting on 19 June I voted with my City Vision colleagues to progress the proposed Westmere walkway on public reserve land. I wish to record my reasons and why I believe all the issues raised in opposition at the open day on 17 May and at our meeting and sent via email can be adequately addressed.
Lack of consultation – it is unfortunate that a group of residents didn’t receive notice of the open day until it was too late. This was a stuff up however the open day wasn’t the only opportunity for residents to provide feedback on the proposal. The idea of a walkway and opening up the public reserve land is also not new. I first heard about it in August 2010 at a Western Bays Community Board meeting. Consulation is continuing with residents.
Privacy – residents who have enjoyed exclusive use of the public reserve will now have to deal with a walkway bordering their property. Privacy can be achieved through fencing and planting. However I have noticed in other coastal areas where private homes boarder public reserve land that each property engages differently with a walkway. Many residents open their gardens on to the reserve and prefer to have no fencing.
Safety – there is no evidence that coastal walkways on public reserve land increase safety risks for nearby residents. If anything passive surveillance is likely to improve safety.
Traffic – if the walkway does attract more visitors they are likely to park close to the Garnet Road shops to do a circular walk ending with visit to a café (thereby supporting the local economy). Once the walkway is further extended with signage to Westhaven (by road through Herne Bay at high tide or along the coast at low tide) I predict that walkers are likely to get dropped off to enjoy a one- way coastal walk.
Cost – it does seem like a lot of money is being spent on one project. However compared with other capex projects I think we are getting good value money for a 1.4km walkway that will have long term benefits. It will be unfortunate if costs escalate due to affected neighbours taking their opposition to the environment court.
Loss of funding for other projects –Member Moyle claimed that he has been blocked from advancing other projects where the funds could be better spent. This is incorrect. Member Moyle has proposed just one new project in 18 months for a car park on reserve land at Coxs Bay. With the support of the Board plans were drawn up for this proposal and costed. The proposal is currently with Auckland Transport. There are no projects identified in the local board plan that are going unfunded as a result of the walkway.
Loss of neighbourhood character – the walkway is likely to add to the character of the neighbourhood and become a key feature for the benefit of locals. The walkway also provides an opportunity to celebrate the heritage of the area which has long been neglected.
Environmental damage – at the open day I heard about middens along the route and the many ecological values of the area. I also heard that there is continuing concern about the pollution in Motions Creek. I think the walkway is an opportunity to enhance and project the environment. Historic features can be incorporated into the interpretation boards for the walkway.
At the end of the day the walkway is on public reserve land that belongs to everyone. For over 80 years the residents with coastal properties have enjoyed almost exclusive use and have come to see the coastal reserve as an extension of their backyards. I can therefore fully understand why the walkway is seen as a threat to their lifestyle and there are concerns. However I believe these can be addressed by the Board and Council officers working with the residents. I think the walkway is going to be used primarily by locals who I hope will come to feel proud of it as a lasting legacy.
Plans for the walkway are available on the Council website.
The walkway in the news
Track divides community – 22 June 2012
Walkway runs into strife – 29 June 2012