A site for a safe, all-weather landing pad for Westpac Rescue Helicopter is back on the Waiheke Local Board agenda, despite the granting of a lease barely a year ago. Speculation is rife that the new site will displace the roosters at the entrance to Onetangi Sports Park.
Auckland Regional Rescue Helicopter Trust was granted a ‘licence to occupy’ (a type of lease) on part of Onetangi Sports Park for an all-weather, all-hours emergency landing pad last year. So why is the Waiheke Local Board and, apparently, the Trust itself, seeking to re-visit this issue?
It was the Helicopter Trust themselves who initiated the request, commissioned a consultant’s report, which concluded that their selected site (close to the car park) was technically the BEST location for the landing pad and proceeded to raise the necessary money for construction. All the while working closely with the Parks Advisor, green activist Council officer, Gary Wilton. There then followed a long public submissions and hearing process costing ratepayers tens of thousands of dollars. A ‘licence to occupy’ was duly granted with appropriate conditions. It was made clear by the Helicopter Trust that they would pay all the costs of building and maintaining the landing pad and, what's more, fundraising by the Waiheke community had already surpassed the required amount.
So, what has changed that the following should suddenly appear in the minutes of the Waiheke Local Board 10 April 2014, business meeting (under the item on SLIPs - small local improvements projects).
Does this mean the Helicopter Trust has revised their consultant’s report stating that the selected site was technically the best location for an all-weather, all-hours emergency landing pad? Or will these safety requirements now be compromised for ‘visual’ concerns?
j) Approves for scoping the Onetangi Sports Park / Rangihoua daytime and nighttime landing pad for emergency helicopter landing purposes only, and that
It is difficult to believe that the Helicopter Trust would willingly submit themselves to Council and Reserve Act processes all over again with all its inherent costs, uncertainties and time delays.
But what is worse is that the ratepayer is now being asked to fork out $40,000 to construct a landing pad for which public fundraising had already been completed. The emergency pad was to cost the ratepayer nothing.
Once more, there was no information in the Local Board agenda or minutes as to where this new site might be. Or any evidence of discussions with the Helicopter Trust. No surprises there. Transparency on this Board is woefully lacking.
It’s no wonder therefore, that speculation abounds as to why the much needed helicopter landing pad has floundered at this late stage and where this 'visually better' site might be.
I’ve heard the following:
This Local Board seems to have only one plan for Waiheke for the next two and a half years: that is to turn the clock back and undo everything that was achieved by the previous Board, no matter what the cost to the ratepayer, the environment, the children, businesses and the community.