On Tuesday night, things looked pretty grim.
The staff recommendations on the Hill Country Plan Change were published, and if anything, represented a step backward for any serious consideration of Council restraint on Ocean Beach development.
But two things happened to save the day.
First, Councillors were well aware of the terrific public protest against 1000 houses on Ocean Beach — many of them witnessed our handover of 7000 petitions to Mayor Yule the previous Thursday. And they were seeing our petition signs all around the area, as well as our ongoing BayBuzz agitating. As a result, they were in no mood to be sand-bagged by a weak, backpeddling staff report.
Second, by Wednesday morning, they were reading our Baybuzz critique of the staff report. Others were sounding the alarm as well. We called upon Councillors to regain control of the issue.
And they did.
By today’s (Thursday) Council meeting, Councillors were back in the driver’s seat. Mick Lester had taken the lead in crafting a new set of recommendations, which spelled out much more clearly the Council’s opposition to any subdivision and development of the Haupouri Flats, including around and north of the Haupouri Woolshed area.
The recommendations adopted by 13-1 vote (Burnside against; Turner absent) state the Council’s recognition that:
“…housing or other significant housing development on the Haupouri Flats would be inappropriate and out of context with the wilderness experience of the whole beach environment and would adversely affect amenity values and the quality of the beach environment.”
“That such development on the areas north of the suggested expanded reserve, would unreasonably and unnecessarily compromise the ability for future generations to further expand the reserve area to meet their needs beyond the current planning horizon.”
Of course now the staff — which doesn’t come across as exactly thrilled about the Council’s new restraint on Ocean Beach — must actually write the submission. We confess to some healthy skepticism about the ardor they will bring to the task.
But fortunately, Councillors anticipated that potential issue also, and selected Councillors Mick Lester and Cynthia Bowers (along with the Mayor) to monitor preparation of the submission. We applaud that “check” on the process.
On behalf of Friends of Ocean Beach, I argued for the Council to simply reject the plan change outright in its entirety, with no further embellishment. Here is the Petition Presentation I made at the Council meeting. Chris Ryan joined me in fielding questions from the Councillors.
Our “Just Say NO!” position did not prevail. But we are satisfied with the outcome. The Council does clearly reject in its entirety the Hill Country Plan Change, and the further specifying of development opposed by the Council far more accurately reflects public sentiment.
So we mark the day as a modest but clear victory for Ocean Beach!
There are many more tough hurdles to overcome before Ocean Beach can be considered protected from development. But at least today we have won a very important skirmish.
A victory made possible by over 8000 petition signers (your petitions will be formally part of the Council’s submission), and by the legions of volunteers who collected signatures, erected signs, hosted signs on their properties, placed sign-up sheets in their shops and cafes, and donated funds and talent.
And a victory made possible by Councillors listening and responding.