Your questions answered - Council land sales sometimes necessary
Recent issues of the Focus have contained considerable correspondence. The potential sale of Council land attracted one letter from a Wellington correspondent that I need to respond to.
Readers know that Councils sell land from time to time, land for which they have no purpose in holding. In Kaipara’s case, where we believe land should be held for public good, we hold it, as is the case with some land on the foreshore in Mangawhai.
In Mangawhai this calendar year, the Council has had five residential sections on the market. Two of these have just settled – one at 264 Molesworth, and one at 211 Thelma.
The remaining three sections are adjoining properties at Wharfdale Crescent. Interested parties are being invited to submit tenders for these.
Much of this block is best described as unkempt. Noxious weeds exist on it, and some residents have been disposing of their garden waste in the area. This has caused infestation of some bad bulbs like crocosmia, and other weeds like wandering jew. The block also has native vegetation and some fruit trees.
In the winter, the wet area at the bottom of the block increases in size from storm water run-off from the roads and built areas above.
Some of the land at the top is flat, has been “adopted” by a neighbour. It is being mown and appears as an extension of the neighbour’s lawn.
The bottom section has a spring on it which is surrounded by reeds and feeds into the drain below. This drain contains eels, which some residents feed.
There is a walkway along the side and at the bottom of this block. This access way is not part of the land up for sale. It will remain in public ownership.
Your correspondent is concerned about the retention of the wetland, the spring, and the eels. Should the tender process conclude in a sale to one or more parties, any development or building proposal will need to comply with Kaipara District Council and/or Northland Regional Council requirements with respect to the movement of earth, the protection of waterways, or identification (and, if needed, protection) of any significant ecological values.
The tender process may lead to the sale of all the land with appropriate protections, or some of the land. The process has already sparked interest by neighbours. If the Council retains some of the land, and a wetlands area is to be appropriately managed, then we will need to decide how the Council will undertake its maintenance and clean-up. In such a case, a neighbourhood or community group taking on the care of the area would assist.
The Council has been advised that MRRA intends to seek leave from the Court of Appeal to appeal to the Supreme Court. For those trying to follow these cases, the MRRA failed to secure the declarations it sought in a judicial review it took to the High Court in 2014. The MRRA then appealed to the Court of Appeal in 2015, and failed with this appeal.
In a separate case, the MRRA and Bruce and Heather Rogan have initiated a second judicial review in the High Court, this time against both the Kaipara District Council and the Northland Regional Council. This case is set down to be heard in May.
Commissioners continue to urge the MRRA to accept the findings of the High Court and Court of Appeal, and to drop all other litigation. The ongoing costs to defend against this litigation falls on all 14,000 Kaipara ratepayers and is substantial.
It is surely time for MRRA to let go.