Channel Feature: Takapuna – Exciting Plans for the Future, Takapuna Beach Reserve Management Plan
Have your say on this essential ingredient of Takapuna's future
As a fairly central resident of Takapuna, and a very frequent (daily) beach user, I am excited about the attention the beach and its parks are getting at the moment. My belief is that the plans are exciting for the people of Takapuna and the wider North Shore. So, for this issue of Channel I have decided to take a look at the Draft Takapuna Beach Reserve Management Plan, and at the same time share my own thoughts with Channel Magazine readers. The Auckland Council has recently released their Takapuna Beach Reserve Management Plan and is inviting the public to make a submission to the draft by 4th September 2012. A Reserves Act hearing will follow, at which submitters will be invited to speak in support of their submissions. Mainstream media will tend to pick up on the negative and will seek comment from those who have an interest in sensationalising that negative. In this piece I have endeavoured to provide the facts and I have made positive comments. I urge you all to go online and download a copy of this draft plan so that you can make your own judgement. My belief is that you will be impressed.
First of all I have to declare that I am a supporter of progress, in general, for Takapuna. I am not totally sure why, but for too long the result of whatever has gone on in Takapuna in the past has been a lack of progress. I am told that there are some who don't want progress for Takapuna which is very sad, as well managed progress is very important for the future of our little slice of paradise. From my perspective, doing nothing is not a substitute for progress. So this is why I personally welcome this Takapuna Beach Reserve Management Plan. We have to ensure this is done right for future generations.
I see the reluctance for change being a primary reason why the development of Takapuna has been so piecemeal in the past. The community needs to work with all the interested parties – public, private, and the not-for-profit groups – to ensure that future development serves the needs of the wider public, and not just the desires of a vocal minority.
For those who take the time to read the Draft Takapuna Beach Reserve Management Plan, you will find it is an excellent document. As the (Auckland Council) authors have pointed out, pages 73-99 of the draft plan cover a great deal, with the focus being on the objectives and policies of the plan. There are 15 strategic objectives outlined, covering:- cultural values; beauty/landscape; activities; marine usage; sport and recreation; events; leases for groups/usage; connecting with the township; protecting the marine environment; improving the natural environment; improving habitat and native biodiversity; protecting the fossilised forest reef and trees; creating built elements that complement the setting; limiting built structures near the water's edge.
It is very important that a balance is achieved between all of these needs and what is required for the future of Takapuna. At the risk of being unpopular, the needs of the people must be just as important as the needs of the environment. I am not trivialising the importance of the environment. But all too often it is placed above the needs of the people and the 'do nothing' progress handbrake comes into play once again. This must not happen here and I believe it won't if we let this plan come to fruition.
It is great that in this Draft Takapuna Beach Reserve Management Plan document Policy 1 (of 13) in the natural environment section (section 6.0, page 82) seeks to address the stormwater discharge issue. It says “Stormwater discharge will be managed through the range of interventions identified in the Takapuna Catchment Management Plan aimed at improving water quality, recreation amenity and the attractiveness of the beach. All unsightly outfall structures will be progressively removed and replaced with soft and sympathetic engineering solutions”. The other 12 points cover protection of the natural environment.
Hand-in-hand with the natural environment section is the section entitled 'Unstructured Recreation Use' (section 7.0, page 84). Objectives of this are two-fold – to retain a high level of unrestricted access to the beachfront reserve, and through the reserve to the adjoining Hauraki Waters and the East Coast Bays coastal walkway; to facilitate a wide range of recreational activities for general public use.
The section entitled ‘Organised Events and Commercial Activities’(section 8.0, page 85) really sets out a plan for managing the growing demand for temporary beach events. These events are enjoyed immensely by the public and add vibrancy to the beach and Takapuna, but obviously need to be managed due to the demand.
The ‘Leases, Licences and Structured Uses’ section (section 9.0, page 87) will be the subject of a great deal of debate. This examines existing agreements, likely new agreements, and outlines a desire to create a distinct 'marine activity hub' at the northern end of Takapuna Beach in proximity to the popular boat ramp. Included is a piece addressing the campground. It reads, “No provision is made for the Takapuna Beach Holiday Park to renew its lease. The land occupied by this activity will be reallocated after March 2013, as identified in the following section 10 of this plan.” Four objectives are outlined : to allow for the continuation and renewal of existing leases and licenses where such use supports the overarching objectives of this plan; to allow for a limited number of new leases and licenses where such uses would contribute to the overarching objectives of this plan; to ensure that the reserve remains predominantly accessible for unstructured recreation; to ensure that the informal character of the reserve is not compromised by structures associated with leases and licenses, and that the cultural, landscape and environmental values of the reserve are protected.
The policies in the ‘Leases, Licences and Structured Uses’ section cover the Takapuna Beach Cafe, Takapuna Beach Holiday Park, Takapuna Boating Club (premises at The Strand and storage area at The Promenade), the new lease to Yachting New Zealand for the proposed National Ocean Water Sports Centre (NOWSC) and their Hardstand and Small Boat Storage Areas, as well as Waka Ama (Ngati Whatua O Orakei Māori Trust Board) for Waka Ama.
Point eight of the policies in this section details 11 objectives that new leases or licences are to be granted under, providing a great deal of protection for the beach.
Policy nine says that licences will be considered for temporary vendors such as ice cream carts on a case by case basis. Wouldn't these types of enterprises add a great deal to the vibrancy and lifestyle of the beach?
Policy 10 says that no leases or licences will be granted for land south of The Strand to the Hauraki Road cliffs which protects a great deal of the beach.
Section 10 (page 92) covers what is called the 'Management Zones'. My belief is that this section is integral to the entire plan. It is very easy for those to criticise parts of the plan that they don't necessarily agree with. But they must consider the entire plan and this is an important part of it.
The introduction of section 10 clearly outlines this. It says “Takapuna Beach possesses a number of distinct spaces characterised by their physical qualities and predominant uses. This plan identifies a management focus for each of these spaces. Compatible activities will be clustered together, intensifying and further reinforcing the purpose of each part of the reserve. The effect will be that the reserve takes on a more constructed character in certain areas, while the majority of the reserve will retain its informal character.”
The area north of The Promenade will be the most active and developed part of the reserve. One of the options for this area is to provide for a small scale motorhome park in order to continue a contemporary style of the holidaying activity long associated with Takapuna Beach.
There is some great stuff in this section. The ‘Northern Unstructured Activity Zone’ is going to be a great space for the public. The reserve, right by the sea, will provide unstructured space for use by the public for activities such as picnicking and playing. This is likely to include a small play-space, seating, barbeques, drinking fountains, picnic tables, sitting terraces, integrated public art and sculpture, formed paths and boardwalks, with low planting utilising NZ native species appropriate to the ecosystem. No storage of boats is permitted in this area at any time.
I believe the Primary Marine Hub is an exciting addition to Takapuna Beach. A ‘spine’ of marine related facilities and activities will be arranged along the Alison Avenue bank. The central portion of this spine will feature a roof car and trailer parking lot at the Alison Avenue road level, beneath which will be housed boats and boating facilities. An internal access road will extend between The Promenade and Earnoch Avenue, providing a thoroughfare and demarking the separation between the Marine spine, and the Unstructured Activity Zone. The main car and trailer park will be rationalised and pulled back from the coastal edge to enable pedestrians to have priority at the water’s edge. A reduction in car park spaces in this location will be more than offset by new parking on the Alison Avenue roof area. A new change and toilet facility will be located between the boat storage and the Takapuna Kiosk. Further encroachment on the Fossil Forest is prohibited.
The potential for a Metro-style Motorhome Park is also being canvassed through this plan. This may be a way that the desires of people who are keen to see the campground remain can be accommodated.
Those who have opposed the development of yachting and related facilities for Takapuna Beach in the past have often let the debate lower to the level of "looking after the rich" mentality. I can assure readers that this is far from the truth. Water sports – led by yachting – are a big part of New Zealand's heritage. It's a big part of Takapuna's heritage. We should celebrate it. Creating facilities that will foster water sports – not just conventional yachting, but the growing sports of Stand Up Paddling, waka ama, sea kayaking, canoeing, kite surfing etc. – will only be positive for Takapuna.
The Central Unstructured Activity Zone refers essentially to the Gould Reserve area, bordered by The Strand. The focus of this space is on unstructured activity and organised events. No further formal leases or licences are permitted in this area. Low key events which do not preclude public access are permitted. Pedestrian access along the waterfront is to remain unimpeded. The existing toilet and change block will be removed from its current location where it is dominant in the view from The Strand, and repositioned to a less visible location nearby. The following developments are permitted:- furnishings including seating, barbeques, drinking fountains, picnic tables (set back from the water’s edge); judiciously located pohutukawa trees to provide shade while protecting views; removal of exotic tree species; the existing boat ramp will be retained but no new ramps are permitted; a children’s play space; boardwalks and rain gardens along The Strand Promenade; integrated public art and sculpture.
The Ends of Roads and Small Reserves to the south of The Strand/Gould Reserve area are sensibly excluded from 'unstructured activity', although enhancements/improvements are planned.
As a frequent dog walker and jogger from Takapuna to Milford, I am thrilled that attention is being given to the Coastal Walkway in the plan. The draft plan details that the Coastal Walkway will be developed to the north of Earnoch Avenue. The Promenade and its facilities such as terraced steps and seats, cafés and available drinking water will support this activity. The design idiom for the reserve as well as for signage and way finding will reinforce the connections as part of this local and nationwide coastal walk. Fantastic!
Section 11 (page 96) covers ‘Urban Integration’. It is explained as follows in the draft plan document: “Integration with Takapuna Town Centre is an important consideration in determining the future of Takapuna Beach. As Takapuna re-positions itself as a metropolitan centre, so must the beachfront respond to the opportunity to create better connections and support improved amenity and quality standards. The two clear objectives are:- to create a well-integrated Town Centre and Beachfront environment which supports urban outcomes; to protect the reserve and associated marine environment from any negative effects of urban development.
I believe the majority of people who live, work and frequent Takapuna are looking forward to the day that the town centre turns around and connects with the beach. Hopefully this is what section 11 is all about!
The final section in pages 73-99 of the Draft Takapuna Beach Reserve Management Plan covers ‘Design and Amenity Standards’ (section 12, page 98). The piece I picked out of this that warmed my heart was the following: “It is important that an overall co-ordinated and coherent design idiom be established to support the character and identity of the beach and its adjoining urban environment, and thus reinforce the distinctive identity of Takapuna.”
Music to our ears! Many would say this will be the first time Takapuna has had a 'co-ordinated and coherent design'.