BY JULIA WADE
People power appears to have prevailed in a dispute over a proposed footpath which also sparked rumours of civil disobedience if the proceedings went ahead.
On the morning of March 25 a large group of concerned residents residing around Alamar Crescent estuary were called to an urgent meeting with Kaipara District Council (KDC) staff regarding a walkway planned to be built on the beachfront stretch of grass along Sellars Reserve. The meeting was arranged after council staff were spotted a few days before measuring and outlining the area, surprising residents as they had previously rejected a similar proposal in 2016.
The 2.5m wide gravel path with timber edges was set to run the length of the reserve from the main boat ramp to the public toilets, as part of the Mangawhai Coastal Walkway, which will eventually stretch from Insley Street Bridge to the Surf Beach carpark, and allegedly identified in the Mangawhai Community Plan (MCP).
A ‘lively discussion’ occurred at the meeting after residents, worried about the imminent destruction of their reserve and privacy, were told by KDC staff that the path was what the community had asked for, that they had been consulted, a contractor had been signed and construction was soon to start. However after much debate council staff agreed further consultation would be required before any work should start.
Otamatea Ward councillor Jonathan Larsen, who attended the gathering, raised residents’ concerns at a recent council meeting, advising of the strong public opposition to the pathway and that if construction proceeded ‘there is likely to be public intervention’.
“What had been consulted on in the MCP was a very general large scale route of an 'all tide coastal access', but the specifics of its route or construction had not been discussed in any way with the locals,” Larsen says. “Interestingly the coastal walkway doesn't
seem to appear on the MCP, but in any event could be a walkway that followed the beach and/or reserve without requiring the formation of a wide gravel path.”
Due to the misunderstanding, KDC have stated that no physical work will be undertaken until May where a further meeting will be held with the Mangawhai community. They also advised that between April 10-12, a drone has been operating from the estuary to the Heads surf beach in order to get footage of the coastal area, allowing council to better align any proposed walkways and to understand the areas that may require further work.
A large local crowd attended the meeting, surprised to hear of a footpath planned even though they had rejected the proposal in 2016. PHOTO/Michelle Jago
Made by locals, a square mockup demonstrates the width and depth of the proposed footpath. PHOTO/Michelle Jago