I have already written about a community vision and initiative put forward by long-time resident Anne Kilgour for the ‘Friends of Alison Park’, to build on the foundation laid by these far-sighted Boards to ensure this park remains a wonderful recreational facility for future generations. The Boards all invested in a variety of tree planting, weed control, paths and of course, sculptures. By purchasing, on behalf of the community, a public sculpture from each of the Sculpture of the Gulf exhibitions over the last fourteen years, the Boards have created an outstanding Sculpture Park, a legacy project to celebrate Waiheke as an Island of Art. Alas, no such commitment has been forthcoming from the current Local Board.
The Reserve Management Plan (RMP) for Alison Park made in consultation with the community, states that once the Oneroa Bowling Club vacated their premises there would not be any further leases given out on the Park. This was to ensure that no group or groups would effectively privatise sections of the park but that the area should be available for the general use of the people of Waiheke. The RMP’s vision is for a multi-use park and facility, accessible to all.
When the long running Oneroa Bowling Club (OBC) folded several years ago, they left the Bowling Club building in a run-down state. With the RMP in mind, the then Local Board invested heavily in the building from their SLIPs (small local improvements projects) funds, bringing it up to Council community hall standards; retaining the Bowling Club memorabilia while modernising the facilities.
The commercial kitchen was upgraded, new accessible toilets installed, leaky roof fixed, carpet replaced, derelict out-buildings removed and new water tanks and septic installed. In total over $200,000 was spent on the upgrade with plenty of scope for even more improved facilities. The building was ready to be let out for hourly or daily rental over a year ago. Not only has this not happened but there has been no further investment in the building by this Local Board and no access for the community.
The current Reserve Management Plan is the document that ensures that this building will now be open to and used by the people. Therefore, warning bells are sounding loud and clear with the revelation that the new Board has allocated $30,000 for a NEW Reserve Management Plan.
Why? Why would a Board want to waste ratepayers’ money on a new Plan? There can only be one explanation – the building. The current RMP is getting in the way of leasing the building to the one or more of their mates. This prime opportunity to get the entire Park back into general usage would be lost. The vultures are already circling. Waiheke Adult Literacy is putting their mark on the building, despite having a perfectly adequate place at Waiheke High School. Other groups rumoured to want sole or joint occupancy of the building are Waiheke Budgeting Services, Living Without Violence and the Waste Resources Trust. All wanting a pepper-corn lease subsidised by the ratepayer.
Anne Kilgour’s vision is for the park to be a “play and picnic” area, catering for the needs of old and young alike. It includes using the upgraded kitchen in the old Bowling Club as a café for all the park users who would be attracted by new facilities including an adventure playground, a pitch and putt for locals and visitors and a rose garden where the elderly can sit in peace and quiet. The later is something much desired by the Waiheke Health Trust.
Alison Park was also identified by Council’s consultants who produced the community pool feasibility study funded by the last Board, as one of five possible sites for a community swimming pool. This is not surprising given that the Park’s Recreation Reserve status means there would be no need to go through such an expensive and probably contentious change to the land status as with other potential sites. A public submission has already been made to the Local Board to consider this possibility and take it a step forward.
If this wonderful community park and building were to be lost forever for the use of a few favoured groups, the island will have lost one of its best opportunities and best assets.
It doesn’t just take the Mayor to wipe out the future of our community parks. The Waiheke Local Board is doing it for him.