Reserves vital to community wellbeing

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With the current discussion on reserves and the use of public land, I thought it would be helpful to give my own view on the topic.

To me, reserves are very important for a range of reasons.

Not only are they environmentally of critical importance, they are also very important for the wellbeing of any community.

Reserves provide places for people to relax, exercise, connect with nature, or connect with other people.

They are places where young and old can play, and they are places where people can go to be by themselves, though possibly not in some of the larger centres where reserves have not been provided for as well as they are here in Waitaki.

We are very lucky to have the number of reserves and recreational spaces we have, and the increasing areas of native vegetation are to be appreciated and enjoyed.

Across Waitaki, we have varying degrees of access to reserves. For example, some smaller communities have very little area which they can freely access, possibly aside from playgrounds.

Other areas are much better off, especially when Department of Conservation and other public land is added into the mix.

When we look more closely at specific towns and villages, access to reserves is not always shared equally.

In my view, Oamaru is an example of that.

The southern area has reserves which include Cape Wanbrow, Awamoa Park, and Queens Reserve, through to the northern end of Glen Warren Reserve.

The northern part of Oamaru is less well catered for, with the Reservoir Forest tracks and the treeless Centennial Park as the principal areas for community use.

Obviously, there are numerous playgrounds available, but overall the access is not shared equitably and that is something that I would like to address, in the first instance with a more definitive plan.

That opportunity is with us now — the spatial plan is as much about how we make sure we have the right reserves in the right place as it is about anything else.

How we achieve that is another discussion.

But wouldn’t it be great in Oamaru and in communities around Waitaki, for one of the key focuses to ensure there are enough areas set aside for the social and environmental benefits of the people who live (or visit) there. Quality reserves that deliver those positive results and in a way that ratepayers can afford.

That is my vision and one that I will be discussing with councillors.

The future for local government is being reviewed now, and one of the stand-out opportunities for communities everywhere is to recognise the place-making role councils have, and to decide how we can use that strength to make our places better.

Whether that means better reserves, better cultural facilities, better social outcomes or an economy that really thrives, the result of improvements in any of these spaces for us is that Waitaki becomes an even better place to be.

– Gary Kircher is the Mayor of Waitaki