Thursday, 03 December 2020

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Community Plans vision may be blurred bu budget constraints

Wish lists for the future development of Mercury Bay have been finalised and dispatched to Thames-Coromandel District Council for approval.

Residents of North, Central and South Mercury Bay have spelled out their priorities in three separate Community Plans which aim to set the direction for future decision making. While the plans are driven by council, many of the goals rely heavily on government, industry and community support.

Mercury Bay Community Manager, Heather Bruce, said the purpose of the Community Plans was to faithfully capture what the communities had expressed. Essentially, they are statements of desire and do not capture any details around costs, timeframes, how the goals could be delivered or by whom. However, they will serve as an important starting point for identifying where funding will be allocated as a new Long Term Plan 2021 - 2031 is drafted over the coming months. A heavily signalled re-focussing of budget on core services - essentially water, solid waste and roads - may dictate what makes the crucial leap from aspiration to reality during this process.

For Mercury Bay Central, which covers Wharekaho, Whitianga and Coroglen, investigations into extending water (including wastewater) services to Wharekaho, a new transfer station for Whitianga and dune protection works would all likely meet a future threshold around essential services. Proposals for a new civic centre, an estuary walkway/cycleway and public toilets at Robinson Road and development of walkways through Centennial Drive bush reserves on the other hand may be among the “nice to haves,” which Deputy Mayor Murray McClean and other councillors have already warned will be on the backburner for some considerable time while council gets its financial house in order.

For Mercury Bay North encompassing Whangapoua, Matarangi, Kuaotunu, Rings Beach, Otama Beach, Opito Bay and Matapaua Bay, a cross-community project to enable the Otama Peninsula to become a night sky reserve or sanctuary under the International Dark-Sky Association is one of the exciting goals which would involve multiple stakeholders. As far as TCDC investment goes, futureproofing the water supply at Matarangi, and new solid waste disposal and recycling facilities for Whangapoua remain on the wish list. The jury is still out as to whether improved boat ramps and boat trailer parking in Whangapoua and Kuaotunu will make the cut.

Calls for public toilets at a raft of new locations - including the New Chums Beach walkway, Otama Beach, Rings Beach and the Oamaru Reserve in Matarangi - raised eyebrows when the plans were presented to the Mercury Bay Community Board, with little early appetite shown for adding to TCDC’s extensive and highly costly stock of public conveniences. Likewise, upgrades to tennis courts and the development of a playing green in Matarangi could fail to make the core services grade if council members hold true to their word.

In Mercury Bay South, which covers Ferry Landing, Flaxmill Bay, Cooks Beach. Hahei, Hot Water Beach and Whenuakite, the popularity of public toilets continues with requests for new or upgraded facilities at a plethora of locations from Ferry Landing and Front Beach to the Hahei beachfront reserve and Hot Water Beach’s Domain Road carpark. Residents of all the Mercury Bay South communities have asked that the potential for a green waste facility be examined while in Cooks Beach the upgrade of the wastewater plant was identified as a priority.

More broadly across the whole of Mercury Bay, the residents and community groups which submitted on the Annual Plans listed affordable housing, more employment opportunities, flood protection, coastal erosion measures and better roading as key elements of their plans, which are expected to be adopted by the full council at their meeting on Tuesday, 4 August. A total of 34 detailed submissions were received on the Community Plans.

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