Meeting offers ‘good direction’

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In 30 years there could be a seafood restaurant and public art memorialising historic shipwrecks at the end of Holmes Wharf, at Oamaru Harbour.

The Waitaki District Council could buy the unused woolstores on Waterfront Rd.

Or it could make “Sandy Beach”, at the base of Oamaru’s breakwater, a destination for local families and visitors.

The council’s harbour area committee discussed all manner of possibilities for the harbour area at the Oamaru Opera House ODT InkBox in front of up to 70 people as members of the public crowded into the first public workshop for the Oamaru Harbour master plan recently.

At the start of July draft proposals were met with public outcry over the apparent direction of the plan.

Proposals for public consultation initially ranged from least ambitious to most ambitious and commercial development was seen to outweigh the community’s desire to preserve the atmosphere of the popular area.

On Thursday, the committee hashed out options in a “zone-based approach” in front of all comers in a statement of the committee’s commitment to transparency.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said the coming public consultation for the master plan would focus on “both” project ideas for the area “we all love” and the rules, or guidelines, that underpin them.

“The guidelines help form an umbrella as to what can happen and hopefully – if I use that analogy – the projects will come down and the bad ones will bounce off the umbrella and go away,” Mr Kircher said.

“By doing projects it helps people to have a really good expectation about what will happen, but we can’t predict everything that’s going to come through. That’s where the guidelines become really important. First of all in helping us develop these projects and the map . . . but the other part is the unexpected things, helping to filter them as to whether they happen, or not.”

Bids for a zipline at the harbour, then a floating hotel, divided opinion in the community before the master plan was deemed necessary to avoid ad hoc decision making, and the process began late last year.

The committee discussed what consultation would be required for six zones: the southern harbour precinct, along Waterfront Rd to the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony; the waterfront zone, along the Esplanade; Holmes Wharf; a harbour plaza area, including Harbour and Wansbeck Sts and the open space used by the Oamaru Farmers’ Market; Sumpter Wharf and the breakwater; and the town centre.

At the start of the workshop council assets group manager Neil Jorgensen, who is leading the project, stated the intention was to enter a phase of public consultation in “later August”, following the next harbour area committee.

After the meeting he could not confirm what recommendation would be advanced when the committee next met.

The project was “basically an iterative process” whereby the committee reviewed different versions of drafts before coming to a proposal fit for public consumption.

“It was good progress today and there was no expectation that we would ever solve everything in one session,” he said. “We were hoping to get ‘next steps’ sorted, but I think we got some good direction from the committee – enough to create what those next steps are.

“You’ve got to move at the pace that people want to move at.”

Cr Guy Percival criticised the latest iteration of draft discussion documents – saying he did not see why “little old Oamaru needs to emulate the Viaduct Basin”.

Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony science and environmental manager Philippa Agnew, who was one of four members of the community added to the committee for the creation of a master plan, scored the biggest round of applause after she criticised the documents which downplayed the importance of wildlife at the harbour, including the largest colony of Otago’s only endemic seabird, the rare Otago shag.

“I think we need to be mindful of the fact that these birds are very, very important. The harbour is not all about us. They are part of this environment,” Dr Agnew said.

Otago Daily Times