Friends oppose local board bid to control regional parks
Friends of Regional Parks (FORParks) has joined ratepayer and resident associations and others across the region in opposing the move by some local boards to take control of ‘decision-making and oversight’ of regional parks in their wards. Local board control of regional parks would spell the end of the regional park network. They would become local parks subject to the interests, development priorities and budget decisions of local residents.
The regional park network was created to serve all the residents of the region, not merely those of their immediate ward. FORParks is calling for the mayor, councillors and chief executive officer not to adopt any of the various local board recommendations to give them decision-making and oversight authority for regional parks.
FORParks welcomes a discussion on the way in which input from local residents and consultation with local boards can take place on matters concerning regional parks, and pledges its support for such a process. But it believes governance must remain with the mayor and council as only they can strike the necessary balance between the recreation, tourism and conservation purposes that must be met in the regional parks. FORParks considers that local boards should carry to council concerns and ideas from the local community. The local board for a particular area should have consultation rights which carry some weight, but not final decision-making, as the parks must be managed as a unit for the whole of Auckland.
Speaking from Australia today, Bill Burrill, chairman of Friends of Regional Parks and former Auckland Regional Council parks committee chairman said:
The Auckland Council was entrusted with an integrated network of 26 regional and specialty parks managed by a skilled team of park professionals and rangers for the benefit of the whole Auckland community. To achieve their objective of ‘the most liveable city’ Auckland Council must retain governance and budget responsibility.
Auckland’s regional park network has been created over 115 years since 1895 through acquisitions paid for by the residents of the Auckland region, as well as gifts and bequests from generous residents, volunteer groups and transfers from the Crown. The network represents the best of the region’s landscapes, remaining indigenous forests, stunning coastline, working farms, Auckland’s water catchment areas and a carefully selected combination of historical and ecological treasures managed regionally to provide conservation and recreation opportunities for the entire region. At the heart of the network is the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, which includes the Centennial Memorial Park purchased by Auckland residents to celebrate the city’s centenary in 1940.
All Aucklanders have paid for the parks through their rates. Many friends groups have donated substantial sums of money and volunteers have given many thousands of hours of work to provide amenities in the parks. Aucklanders identify with the regional parks as collectively ‘ours’. Only the mayor and council can guarantee the parks will continue to serve all the region’s residents effectively.
Key reasons for creating the single Auckland Council were to create efficiencies, allow unified policies across the region and to reduce competing parochial interests that blocked decision-making serving the good of the region. It would be ironic if this single council resulted in an existing, effectively functioning, unified regional system being broken up, leaving the precious regional parks, the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the Auckland region, in a worse condition than before amalgamation.
The regional parks network provides many efficiencies in the use of resources from how stock is moved among properties to best manage the land, to weed and pest control, ranger services and region-wide access to camping and baches. It is managed by a staff with specialist knowledge and resources that can be applied across the system. Local board governance would create a confused management structure with staff answering to multiple masters with different priorities and rules and no method of adjudicating among the competing interests for resources.
Appropriately, the last word goes to Arnold Turner CMG, first parks committee chairman of the former Auckland Regional Authority:
Without the regional parks, Auckland cannot become the world’s most liveable city.
The following organisations have joined FORParks and the Waitakere Ranges ratepayers and residents associations to support this media release:
Chinese Conservation Education Trust
Environmental Defence Society
Friends of the Auckland Botanic Gardens
Friends of Arataki Regional Park
Friends of Maungawhau Regional Park
Friends of Whatipu Regional Park
Long Bay Okura Great Park Society
Manukau Harbour Restoration Society
Muriwai Environmental Action Community Trust
Mahurangi Regional Park volunteers
New Zealand Horse Recreation
Shakespear Open Sanctuary Society
Strategic Property Advocacy Network
Waitakere Forest and Bird
Waitakere Ranges Protection Society
and the Mahurangi Magazine