26 Jun 2018

Fight to keep Takaka grandstand heads to High Court

From Checkpoint, 5:48 pm on 26 June 2018

A battle to stop the removal of a 119-year-old grandstand in Takaka has gone all the way to the High Court, with Golden Bay A&P association joining in. 

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Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

The grandstand was to have been demolished to create a car park for a new community centre built next to it.

A&P association vice president Noel Baigent said the land was gifted to the council in 1959, and rights to the land use had been eroded.

The council said it had tried to meet the needs of everyone in its bid to complete a $3.5 million recreation centre which sits next to the stand, but said the grandstand has to go, as it needed the space for a car park.

The A&P Association and the Golden Bay Grand Stand Community Trust are now seeking a review of the council's decision to remove the grandstand.

It is to be heard in the High Court in Wellington tomorrow.

This is our history, say Noel and Duncan.

This is our history, say Noel and Duncan. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

Supporters have in recent weeks been keeping a 24-7 vigil, afraid the council might bring in the wrecking ball before the court decides.

Pam Delany has lived in Takaka since 1979, and has joined the group of rostered volunteers to keep watch on the grandstand, rain, hail or shine.

She explained what it meant to the community.

"Oh, it's just the history. It's been here over 100 years. Why ... demolish something that's the history of the town."

Mrs Delany was on her third roster shift, and had a flask of hot tea and a smorgasbord of donated food to keep hunger at bay.

"There's always something to eat. The food that's been brought up here by the community is incredible."

Mr Baigent grew up in the Bay, left at 16 and returned six years ago after being away almost half a century.

"My great grandfather was the very first president of this show and then following on from that, my grandfather, he was also president and life member of the A&P show, my mum and dad have both been president and when I came back I thought it was time I did my bit as well."

The A&P Association and the Golden Bay Grand Stand Community Trust  are seeking a High Court review of the council's earlier decision, which has already run the gamut of planning and legal processes. Last year the grandstand trust lost an environment court bid for an enforcement order that would have prevented the stand's demolition.

The council said it cost rate payers around $100,000 to defend, and it was looking at about another $40,000 bill in the next round.

Another long-time A&P Association member says the council did try to resolve the matter by offering to shift the stand. But Duncan McKenzie said too many questions remained.

"The resolution was to shift it off council land, on to land nearby, and then a (permanent) site was to have been decided on where it would be moved back to, but that was unacceptable.

"Once it went off council land we'd have a hell of a fight to get it back to where we wanted it," Mr McKenzie said.

Most of the residents in Takaka township spoken to by RNZ wanted the grandstand to stay.

One said he and others did not know what the first decision to remove the stand was based on.

"I have asked, and many people with strong opinions don't know," the resident said.

The grandstand is an assemblage of buildings modified over the years, but it contains remnants of the 1899 open-topped grandstand.

Tasman District Mayor Richard Kempthorne said in 2010 the council and the community began drafting ideas for a new community centre at the site.

It opened last year as a multi-sports venue and community centre.

"That was worked through with the community. At one stage the council decided it wasn't going to build it at all because we were wanting to reduce debt, and not do an additional recreational facility, but there was a strong call from Golden Bay to re-introduce it into the long term plan, so we did."

Mr Kempthorne said the new centre was built with about $1m raised in the Golden Bay community.

He was disappointed the matter was going to court yet again.

"We're at a stage now because of the public pressure, there is a lot of angst, and we're in a bit of a spot," he said.