It is now time for the publicly owned, refurbished, former Oneroa Bowling Club (OBC) on Alison Park, Waiheke Island to be made available to the people who own it. This community facility needs to be added to Council’s halls for hire and included in Council’s central bookings system.
Community groups wanting to hire the OBC are currently being denied access to the premises by the Waiheke Local Board (WLB).
When the OBC building was vacated by what remained of the once thriving Club, it required a $200,000 investment by the first Waiheke Local Board to bring it up to Council standard for community facilities. This included new water tanks; an upgraded septic system; new furnishings; installing an accessible toilet and renovation of the commercial grade kitchen. Projected possible uses included Club hireage (for which storage lockers were retained), functions and even small weddings.
The Reserve Management Plan for Alison Park is quite clear. Once the Bowling Club moved out, it was not to be leased to any other group. The building and former leased areas were to go back into the general park environs and be used by the general public. That means a hall for hire as per Council’s terms of reference, fees and charges.
So far, this hasn’t happened. Why? Because the second Local Board was temporarily housed in the OBC building for almost a year while its new offices were being built as part of a million dollar upgrade to the Waiheke Service Centre in Ostend. Now the Board is well ensconced in their new rooms and the OBC is ready for use. Or it should be.
While mates of Waiheke Local Board members, such as the Waiheke Resources Trust (WRT) have free use of the building when they want it, everyone else has been locked out.
To refresh your memory, the WRT (formerly the Waiheke Waste Resources Trust) is the brain child of John Stansfield, partner of hard left Green Party List MP Denise Roche and has picked up over $14,000 worth of funding already from this Local Board.
Despite many attempts over the past few months to be allowed to hire the building for its meetings, one group, ‘Friends of Alison Park’ has so far been unsuccessful. They have been told by various council officers, including the Board’s Relationships Manager, Judith Webster that Board Chairman Paul Walden is in charge of community access.
Now, let’s get this clear. The OBC belongs to the ratepayers. It is a community owned hall and should be available for hire like any other community facility on Waiheke and around the region. It is not the personal property of a local politician. The Waiheke Local Board has no jurisdiction over the building and it is no different from other Council buildings for hire such as the Surfdale Hall, Ostend War Memorial Hall, Old Surfdale Post Office and Old Blackpool School. They all belong to Auckland Council, that is, the people, and they are maintained as Council property.
I warned of this favouritism by the WLB in a blog last October entitled ‘Keep Park for the people not Paul’s mates”
Very soon the Waiheke Local Board (WLB) will vacate the refurbished former Oneroa Bowling Club (OBC) on Alison Park for their new million dollar premises in Ostend. That means the OBC building will at last be available for community use. The Reserve Management Plan (RMP) for Alison Park, which includes the OBC building and greens, states that once the Bowling Club has vacated the premises, no further leases will be issued on the Park. Why? Because the Park should belong to the people not a small select group.
On this basis the first Waiheke Local Board refurbished the OBC building at a cost of over $200,000. Why was this necessary? Because the remaining few members of the Bowling Club had not only been in breach of their lease conditions with Council for many years but they had permitted the building to deteriorate around their ears. The history of the trashing of the premises by the Oneroa Bowling Club when it vacated the land and building can be read on my blog last October. This is a prize example of why one club or group should not have control over community facilities.
The Waiheke Croquet Club also needs some certainty. Reportedly, given permission by Walden and Councillor Mike Lee, to use the former bowling greens and a small shed (at no charge), the group has not had access to the building interior. It’s now time to formalise the bookings system and charge out rate and make the use of Council community facilities a level playing field.