Submission on Proposed Williamson Park Resource Consent by Whangamata Ratepayers Association Inc, August 2018.
Whangamata Ratepayers Association represents both residents and ratepayers of the town and has cast a wide net to engage with both members and non-members on the matters relating to this resource consent application, having identified very early in the process a significant amount of concern and unease over some aspects of it.
While inevitably a wide variety of individual concerns are apparent as a result of the wide engagement with both members and non-members, these concerns can be grouped as follows:
1. The proposal that any event involving more than 500 people should require a resource consent does not seem to be supported by either any logical argument, nor in fact precedent amongst local authorities in New Zealand. While council has not made the reasons nor logic for this arbitrary participation level clear, there is a general belief amongst ratepayers that it is driven by bureaucratic ideology. The association found zero support for this arbitrary policy decision amongst the large numbers of residents and ratepayers consulted. It is noted that this policy has been developed under the proposed District Plan.
2. The well established and popular events that have become a part of Whangamata’s DNA are totally and unanimously supported by the town. It is only the arbitrary application of the unsupported policy decision around >500 participants that impacts the successful continuation of these iconic events, and that decision should be reversed, to allow the continued success of these events already identified in the council literature on this subject:
a. Anzac Dawn Service
b. Brits at the Beach
c. Beach Hop
d. Surf Club events and Whanga Week
e. Summer holiday events (5days and 3 nights)
f. Sporting Events
g. Matariki or Community Festivals
3. The commercial provision of concerts and the like are at the heart of this debate. While a number of ratepayers and residents support the concept to some degree, its implementation, in particular with the erection of ugly and restricting polyethene-covered fencing, and that fencing’s inevitable restriction of public access to the iconic Williamson Park, the surf club, and the beach during its tenure, are widely not supported.
4. There is a significant ground swell of opinion, particularly by the older long-term residents, that the park was gifted to the town with specific restrictions around commercial use of it. It is clear that the Council and Community Board have now taken the position that this argument has no legal standing; while this is yet to be argued in court (and some residents feel so strongly about the issue that such action may yet occur), this association urges Council to consider their moral obligations in this regard. The land was gifted as a recreational reserve, it is clear that Mr Williamson did so with conditions restricting commercial use, and that he wanted unrestricted access at all times by residents.
5. The introduction of liquor licensing at Williamson Park is strongly and almost unanimously opposed, in particular given the history of the town, and the recently successful liquor ban.
The committee of the Whangamata Ratepayers Association canvassed its members, and as many non-members as they were able to interact with and asked for all residents’ thoughts and comments to be provided in writing. The following are a few excerpts from the many communications (both email, and both printed and hand-written notes) received:
· “Submissions of opposition are paramount. TCDC is the only council in New Zealand who is proposing the resource consent application requirement for events with over 500 people”
· “Throughout the year of developing the resource consent application members of the community have been lobbying the Community Board to ban commercial activity on the park on the basis that the original deed of gift of the park, requested free and uninterrupted access to the park to be maintained”
· “The figure of 500 persons, or above, appears to be purely arbitrary, and selected more as a benchmark for control than for practicalities”
· “In the process the residents of Whangamata were subjected to the erection of a most crude, rude, and unsightly, black plastic sheeted scaffold fence, which was a total embarrassment to the residents, and a popular joke to the many visitors to the township at such a holiday period”
· “Do away with the policy of the benchmark “500”, it just has no relevance”
· “Do not confuse this with the Beach Hop, ANZAC Ceremony etc as the majority of objection relates to the PRIVATE events with tickets, alcohol and the park closure UGLINESS and Unsightliness of the fencing etc”
· “The land was gifted - TCDC listen please, no argument about ownership just use it for what it was gifted for the community”
· “TCDC stop adding the 'threats re Beach Hop - that is NOT the issue”
· “Over the summer holiday period Williamson Park and the Surf Club are the focal point for holiday makers, in particular for family groups, seeking the reassurance for safe swimming that the Surf Club provides“
· “For years Whangamata suffered from alcohol fueled anti social behaviour over the Christmas & New Year period and it was clear from the Whangamata Ratepayers AGM in February this year that our members did not want to see a return to those days”
· “Where is the value? Council seems to be providing a valuable community asset for use by private entrepreneurs”
· “As a resident of Whangamata, I really feel that the enlargement of the events calendar as proposed, outside of the traditional events, will prove to be unmanageable, and of detriment to our interests”
· “There can be no doubt that all of the above events could be organised as totally free access for the public, and have no need whatsoever for the erection of restrictive fencing and the like to host such events”
· “I find it ludicrous that council is applying in their consent to allow liquor sales at these events”
· “I was on the council that investigated a commercial venture at Williamson Park, and followed the then legal advice in the negative”
The Assosciation has been surprised at the level of wide-spread opposition to this consent, and on consideration, the vast majority of it focussed on the “500 people” aspect, followed by the “commercialisation” and fencing proposals. A good indication of the level of feeling is evident in the newly created Save Williamson Park website that has just been launched at: http://savewilliamsonpark.org.nz/ .
The Whangamata Ratepayers Association, on behalf of its members, and those many non-member residents who have communicated with us on this topic, strongly objects to the proposed resource consent for Williamson Park.
The town and its residents clearly wish the Park to remain available for public enjoyment, and wish to see alcohol-free family events held on appropriate special occasions, as have been historically, not closed commercial ventures.