If you are a person or family of wealth and property in Hawke’s Bay, there are two ways to leave a legacy for your countrymen as a way of celebrating your good fortune and love of the land.

The first is to place 98 hectares of your property — some of the most iconic landscape in the region — in a trust with protections for its pristine beauty, and simply gift it to the people of Hawke’s Bay … no strings attached, no quid pro quo.

Let’s call this way … Te Mata Park Trust, courtesy of the Chambers family.

Then there’s the second way.

Build 1,000 dwellings on an iconic beach, call the result a “greatly enhanced” community asset, and pretend that NOT developing the rest of the beach is by some stretch of the imagination actually a gift or favor to the people.

Let’s call this way … Ocean Beach Make-over, courtesy of Andy Lowe and Hill Country Corporation.

Throughout a complicated public process, the people of Hawke’s Bay have rather emphatically given their verdict on the Lowe Legacy … they’ve said: No Thanks, Andy!

But that hasn’t slowed down Hill Country. They’ve placed bets on a lot of horses in this race … all while posturing as saviours of the land. Most recently in an interview with Andy Lowe in the Village Press.

It would take a book to detail all the machinations involved in the horse race to develop Ocean Beach.

Here, we’ll just attempt a slight clarification and note some ironies, let’s call them,raised by the Village Press interview.

When the public process (Horse #1) conducted by the Hastings Council yielded a draft Structure Plan with an outcome unsatisfactory to Andy & confederates — a few hundred dwellings were a few hundred too few — they took the matter private.

They submitted a private plan change for Ocean Beach (that’s Horse #2), which Council staff is now reviewing (having set aside Horse #1). The full dimension of the private plan change can only be inferred from press materials Hill Country released at the time. Those materials (more vaguely summarized in the VP interview) speak of a “vibrant coastal community” of approximately 1,000 dwellings, supporting businesses, equestrian facility, etc.

Andy terms this a community with “enough critical mass to support the services and amenities it needs” and claims that outcome is better than “a few holiday homes.” Really?!

Somehow, when I imagine maybe 25 homes along the coast (what Andy might be able to build under the status quo) versus a community of 1,000 dwellings, and ask myself: “Which would be more conducive to protecting what most of us conceive the values of Ocean Beach to be?” … I get a no-brainer sort of answer. And so do hundreds of submitters to the Council representing a broad swath of the public.

Silly us, all this time we thought it was the beach, the dunes, the unspoiled cliffs, the relative solitude that made Ocean Beach so special. But according to Andy, we need to improve on nature … it’s a “popular seaside village” that will transform Ocean Beach into an “enhanced asset.”

OK, Andy, maybe if we get a Pizza Hut and a hairdresser’s salon in the bargain.

Now in the Village Press, Andy gives a lot of lip service to public consultation, and calls the option of sub-dividing into only 25 or so blocks “the elitist option.”

He celebrates public consultation, but ignores its verdict. So on what basis does he persist with pursuing his ambitious plan? Isn’t the Ocean Beach make-over plan of one developer and his entourage really the elitist option?

Mind you, Andy hasn’t exactly abandoned the “elitist option” he demonizes. Enter Horse #3.

Instead, he attacks the Council’s Plan Change 38. Indeed, he takes the Council into the High Court, chewing up ratepayer money in legal fees.

What is Plan Change 38 intended to do? It would require rural sub-divisions of the sort Hill Country would like to undertake without any public review, to now undergo public notification and a more rigorous assessment process.

By attacking this proposed change, Lowe is hedging his bets and trying to preserve as much freedom as possible to do as he pleases … the public be damned. The word from the Council’s Thursday meeting of its Development & Environment Committee is that this matter is “in negotiation.” Rather important public business to be conducted behind closed doors, no?

Is this any way to give the public a legacy? No thanks, Andy.

How about if we just put your name on a plaque at the Surf Club and call it a deal? We’ll pay.


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