Sunday, 20 September 2020

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Still no decisions on Sheriff Block

A 28ha block of public land on the outskirts of Whitianga has become the town’s newest hottest property with a queue of both commercial and community interests lining up to secure a chunk of the action.

However, who precisely will get a slice of the Sheriff Block adjacent to the Whitianga Airfield and for what purpose remains up in the air with Thames-Coromandel District Council and the Mercury Bay Community Board yet to develop an overall plan for the site or reveal how future leases or rights to occupy would be granted.

The site has already been widely touted as the replacement venue for the Whitianga Summer Concert once the current Whitianga Waterways location becomes unavailable from 2022. TCDC Area Manager North, Alan Tiplady, confirmed that a contract has been agreed with “an event organiser” with further information to be made public “once all the details have been finalised.”

Council had planned to spend $318,000 last year developing the concert site and tenders were invited for the project. However, no work was done after it was established that the concert could remain at the Waterways in 2021. An amount of $80,000 has now been budgeted between July 2020 and June 2021 for “design and investigation.”

Future ratepayer spending will come under public scrutiny as part of TCDC’s new Long Term Plan consultation process beginning early next year. Council did not confirm whether or not it is already contractually committed to developing the concert venue as part of its agreement with the Summer Concert promotor.

However, a plethora of other groups have also been writing to the Community Board and attending meetings to lobby for a section of the land. The Mercury Bay Motocross Club has been one of the most proactive, sending representatives to speak during the public form on a number of occasions. With 250 members, the club says is has a group of volunteers “ready to go” in order establish a track on the block and does not require any funding from council. The Mercury Bay Speedway Club has been in negotiations with TCDC for five years in an attempt to secure a section of the block. Approval in principal was given as far back as August 2016, when it was also agreed to lease a section of land to the Whitianga Sea Scouts for their new den. The Scouts signed a lease for 7,000m² of land in 2018. In June this year TCDC said, “Ongoing discussions are being held to determine the exact area to be leased to Speedway for its proposed track development. Final location will be dependent on assessment work for the future of [the overall Sheriff Block].” However, no indication was given as to when this work would be done. TCDC has owned the land zoned active recreation since 2001.

An equestrian academy had also expressed an interest operating at the site while neighbouring Sieling Farms, who previously leased part of the land for grazing, has recently asked for access to approximately 4.5ha to grow crops for feeding dairy cows until June 2021. However, if permission was to be granted for such an activity, council staff have recommended that an open expression of interest process would be preferable.

When asked where the current process is at and what input the community will have in the future use of the land, Mr Tiplady told The Informer, “We are developing a concept plan for the entire site, taking into consideration all of the expressions of interest for the use of it that we have received from the community. Once an overall concept plan is completed, this will be shared with our communities.”

TCDC did not give any indication of the timeframe for this process or how each expression of interest would be assessed. The Mercury Bay Community Board were set to discuss it further at a workshop.

Thames Coromandel District Council and the and the Mercury Bay Community Board have yet to develop an overall plan for the Sheriff Block adjacent to the Whitianga Airfield. The 28ha property is Whitianga’s newest hottest property with a queue of both commercial and community interests lining up to secure a chunk of the action.

Pictured: The Sheriff Block adjacent to the Whitianga Airfield.

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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.