Carterton residents have knocked back a plan to change a much-loved dog park.
The Sparks Park Hearing Committee today decided to recommend to Carterton District Council that no application for reserve revocation be made to the Department of Conservation, which was the next step.
The revocation was needed for a land swap that would have given property developer Molesworth Homes land on the east side of the park for a road in return for land provided on the other side.
Molesworth Homes can still apply for a resource consent to develop its land adjacent to the park but not using the proposed land swap. The proposed subdivision can be accessed elsewhere.
Those arguing against the revocation of reserve status included Roger Styles, a former deputy mayor of Lower Hutt, who is a recent arrival to Carterton and lives near the park.
Developer Rudy van Baarle said via a letter read out to the hearing he too was a ratepayer in Carterton and was building a house there, and had been supporting the community for more than 10 years.
Laurie Juno said he could not believe a housing development was being contemplated on a flood plain and park users were losing "nice flat land" in return for "a swamp".
The development was too high density, and traffic from it would impact on the park.
"Leave Sparks Park as it is," he said.
Hearing Committee Chair Russell Keys said many of the issues raised would have been dealt with the resource consent process, which would have been notified.
"We are here today to hear about the land swap," he said.
Colin Butler was unhappy about the process of the separation of the land swap from the actual development plan as well as the unsuitability of the land and the lack of information about the development.
The land had a history of drainage problems.
"All regard it as a swamp," he said.
The developer's plans were not public but they were circulating "around the neighbourhood".
Dulcie Routhan, who gifted the park to the town herself, had got consent for a 23-lot residential subdivision on land surrounding the park from the Environment Court in 2008 but it did not proceed.
Council did receive an application from Molesworth Homes but it withdrew it and applied for the land swap.
Mr Butler said Molesworth Homes wanted to build 40 homes, which was many more than proposed in 2008.
Mr Styles, deputy mayor of Hutt City Council from 2004 to 2010, turned up with four pages of prepared notes to read to the hearing committee, saying he had a degree in public policy and had been involved in making policy on reserves.
He and his wife Kate opposed the proposed reserve revocation because of inadequate consultation, lack of consistency with any reserve strategy, inconsistency with Carterton's own long-term growth strategy and "because it will reduce the reserve amenity currently enjoyed by local users".
"This appears to be a developer keen to profit from avoiding the costs of mitigating a number of development obstacles to their site," he said.
He estimated the reserve revocation only had a 10 percent to 20 percent chance of proceeding.
"As a committee you are effectively being asked to consider the merits of a 10 percent to 20 percent chance of swapping some good reserve land with some low value river bed," he said.
He said amenity value could not be "expressed as a simple square metre calculation".
He said the Sparks Park Trust had an agreement with the developer. He said this made them a part with a specific interest in the proposal.
He recommended the hearing committee accept the officers' recommendation three - to recommend to council that no application be made to the Department of Conservation, which is what they did.
Eion Clarke spoke on behalf of The Surry with the Fringe on Top Trust, which has a Carriage House on the land that was to be lost to the park and asked how that had been allowed to be built by council when it was situated on land that was a paper road.
Hank Optland said "Dulcie was in sound mind when she gave that park", and "we should respect her wishes".
"You are going to change the nature of the park completely," he said.
Ms Routhan died in 2012 in her 89th year. She was a foundation teacher of Kuranui College and the only child of the late Emily Sparks and William Routhan. During her lifetime she built up a portfolio of dozens of houses, collecting the rents herself.
Former mayor John Booth was on the hearing committee with current deputy mayor Rebecca Vergunst. Mr Keys chaired the hearing committee.
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