Residents concerned over park plan

Porirua City News | 26 January 2005

Porirua City News, 26 January 2005: Residents concerned over park plan

GREENING the gully: Neil Bellingham at work in the Maara Roa reserve in Cannons Creek.  Mr Bellingham takes responsibility for the Friends of Maara Roa's revegetation plan for the reserve.  However, their efforts could count for nought if landowner Landcorp sell the land to a private developer.

Photo: Simon Haxton

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The ripples of the privatisation wave of the late eighties corporatisation are still being felt in Porirua.

State landowner Landcorp has offered its part of Belmont Regional Park up for sale, including the Maara Roa conservation area in Cannons Creek.

Landcorp owns about 100 ha of Belmont Regional Park, and farms another 100 ha leased from the park.

Landcorp was given the land when the Lands and Survey Department was closed.

However, for the past 18 years, since Landcorp ceased farming part of it, the Friends of Maara Roa has been actively rehabilitating the area.

Though some parts are protected by covenant, others are not and may end up in private hands for redevelopment.  Landcorp chief executive officer Chris Kelly confirms that it wants out of the farm and has offered it to Greater Wellington regional council and the ball is in the council's court.

"Landcorp does want to sell the property that we call Waitangirua Farm," he says.

"We have suggested to the regional council they may be interested in buying it."

The area was not viable for Landcorp to continue farming it, he says.

Landcorp farms land in clusters, but Waitangirua stands alone and the need to retain public access can be difficult at times.

The corporation has no preference as to who should own it.

"We are a state owned enterprise and one of our key criteria is to act as if we are non-government owned.

"First up, best dressed and those who can write the biggest cheque get it."

Greater Wellington regional council parks and forests manager Rob Forlong confirms the council is in discussions with Landcorp, but considered the issue in non-public business and he could not comment.

Friends of Maara Roa spokesperson Sylvia Jenkin says Landcorp should sell the Maara Roa land to Greater Wellington "for $1".

"Why do they need to sell something that is of no value to them?"

In the meantime Friends volunteers have been continuing to rehabilitate the area, she says.

"The only statement that we have had was that if we work outside the covenanted areas you're doing that at your own risk."

Mrs Jenkin says she doesn't believe the council has sufficient reserve funds to buy the area.

"My feeling is that it will go to an overseas developer, because no-one else will be able to afford it."

Porirua City councillor Robert Shaw says the public should not have to pay an SOE to buy back its own land.

"This is something central government should be interested in as owners on behalf of the public. Government should intervene and vest ownership in Greater Wellington regional council," he says.

"We would be horrified if the ratepayers had to fork out millions of dollars just to buy back land they already own.

"How many times does the public have to pay for this thing?"