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The community decides . . . An artist's interpretation of the proposed new St John Oamaru building at Awamoa Park. PHOTO: SUPPLIED/WAITAKI DISTRICT COUNCIL

Waitaki district councillors have made it clear – it’s up to the community to decide on Awamoa Park’s future.

Earlier this month, St John formally sought the opportunity to lease part of the park from the council to build a new emergency ambulance base, as its Coquet St premises are no long fit for purpose.

Councillors were asked at a full council meeting last week to agree in principle to make the council land available for a potential lease to St John.

However, councillors declined to take a stance on the proposal and instead agreed to consider making the land available.

Oamaru ward councillor Colin Wollstein said the change of wording allowed the council to hear the community’s voice.

“We are putting it out to the public to give us their opinion and council is not taking a position either for or against the proposal,” Cr Wollstein said.

Councillor Hana Halalele said the council did not want to give the impression it had already agreed to move forward with the proposal, and due process needed to be given.

Councillor Kelli Williams said the council needed to send a clear message to the community.

“I think we need to be very clear that we support it going to the public, for the public to make a decision, as opposed to saying we are all over this one Williams said.

Deputy mayor Melanie Tavendale agreed with her fellow councillors.

“I think everyone of us believe it’s the community that need to drive this and St John that need to drive this. It’s not our process per se even though we’re running it.”

St John has been seeking a new site since 2014. Six were investigated – including Orana Park, a property near the Oamaru Fire Station, and a shared location with Oamaru Hospital Awamoa Park – but Awamoa Park was identified as the preferred site during engagement with the council nearly four years ago.

It met operational requirements and response times, was centrally located with good arterial access, and outside of the tsunami zone.

Section 138 of the Local Government Act 2002 requires the council to consult with the community over any decision to dispose of land held as a “park” by the the council.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher wanted to hear the community’s views on the proposal.

“At the end of the day, we have to make a decision. What we want to help us to that is as many submissions as possible,” Mr Kircher said.

“I’m keen to hear what they’ve got to say, and weigh up those submissions. In a month’s time we’ll get that feedback, and see where we go from there.”

The consultation period begins today , and closes on March 26. A questionnaire, and links to relevant background material, is available on the council’s website and at its offices.

If required, a council hearing for deliberations would be held on April 13.

Resource consent would only be sought by St John after a lease decision had been made, subject to a separate process under the Resource Management Act 1991.