I’ve struggled through most of the hundreds of pages of material in Hill Country’s proposal for building Lowetown at Ocean Beach.

Most of the material deals with the minutiae of building heights, liquor store locations and heliport operating hours. Not that these details aren’t important to builders and promoters of small cities. Certainly, for example, they prefer approval of 4-story buildings instead of 1-story ones.

But, in fact, they divert our attention from the core issues at stake in considering whether the very idea of building a small city at Ocean Beach is a good one in the first place.

If you are planning a formal submission on Ocean Beach, unless you are prepared to hire your own lawyer or expert witness to help you comb through the Hill Country “plan change,” I suspect that you’ll have great difficulty if you try to get too deep into the weeds. Unfortunately, this illustrates the manner in which the RMA process favors the folks who stand to make a financial bundle out of development.

Meantime, however, opponents of Lowetown still have an opportunity to voice your concern in the political arena. Next week, the Hastings Council will review its position on the matter. Councillors will be re-voting … and they need to hear from you.

Here are three fundamental principles you might want to communicate.

First, let’s call this proposal what it really is … a radical plan to transform Ocean Beach from a pristine treasure into a small city.

We are not talking incremental change here!

Language is important in public discussions. Language frames the debate.

And here, the issue is building Lowetown, or not.

All the convoluted legalistic language of “plan changes” and “RMA submissions” sterilizes the matter at hand. And minutiae like allowable glare from street lights further obscure the reality.

The political debate should not be about the arcane.

So if a Councillor talks to you about the “plan change,” correct him or her. We are talking about building Lowetown, a small city, at Ocean Beach. Nothing less. Nothing more obscure.

When that Councillor’s grandchildren ask, “Whatever happened to Ocean Beach?”, the Councillor needs to say, “I voted against (or for) Lowetown, and I’m proud of it.” The Councillor surely cannot say … “It was a complicated plan change … I really didn’t see what was coming … Actually, I didn’t have time to read it.”

Second, property owners at Ocean Beach already have the right to sub-divide their land, and no one is proposing to take away those rights.

Under current rural zoning, existing large properties at Ocean Beach can be divided to a specified extent, which would allow a maximum of 75 or so lifestyle blocks, 1.5 hectares in minimum size, to be built over the full extent of the beach.

You will find nothing in the Hill Country proposed “plan change” as to why this status quo should be overturned. Why? Because the only reason for Lowetown is to make more money.

Now making the maximum possible amount of money off of Ocean Beach land is not a matter of property rights; it is a privilege which Hastings Councillors can decide to bestow upon a chosen few … or not.

So, Councillors, who is to “profit” from Ocean Beach, the people of Hawke’s Bay, or the Hill Country club?

Third, the claim that “some development” (i.e., Lowetown) is a fair trade for ironclad future protection of a large portion of Ocean Beach is totally groundless.

There is no plan for the conservation of any land at Ocean Beach in the Hill Country plan change. Ironclad protection of the balance of the land is a fairy tale.

Instead, we are promised a conservation plan (of unknown scope and effectiveness) after the Lowetown proposal has been accepted and locked in place. So after the diggers are excavating for Lowetown, then we all get to hire lawyers and argue over a conservation plan for what’s left.

Personally, I’ve never heard a Councillor step up and actually claim that building Lowetown was a great idea, though several of us have heard one say that she’d like to buy a place there (maybe she’d like to stand up and pick her lot at the next Council debate, and then recuse herself from voting!). Instead, supporters sheepishly peddle “the trade-off.”

Mayor Yule has always grounded his position upon this grand trade-off … a gamble, really. Unfortunately, in the Hill Country plan, Andy has dealt the Mayor a measly pair of deuces. Not a hand to bet the future of Ocean Beach on, I’d say.

What about you, Councillors, are you prepared to bet away Ocean Beach with a pair of deuces?

These three principles get to the nub of the Ocean Beach issues. When you think through their implications, the case for Lowetown — in fact, the case for any development beyond what is permitted today — falls down.

Down with Lowetown!


P.S. Don’t forget to check out the brand new BayBuzz website for more background on Ocean Beach.

Join the Conversation


  1. My family and I moved to NZ from Scotland at the end of last year. We hired a campervan and spent 6 weeks driving from Auckland to Queenstown looking for somewhere special to live. We had a wish list which included – schools, employment prospects etc. etc. High on this list was the Wow factor. Something that was very special on your doorstep. We found Havelock North which we really liked, we then found Ocean Beach which we really loved!

    I can't believe New Zealanders are prepared to spoil something which is so naturally beautiful!

    I have seen a lot of New Zealand and It's Nature that makes YOUR country special, not your towns!

    If you strip away your natural beauty you will have very little left. If I wanted to visit towns and cities I would have stayed in Europe.

    Please convince me that I made the right choice in choosing to live in NZ. Stop this madness before it's too late!

  2. Hello Mr Belford & Mark. Thank you for sending me an update regards the modified Baybuzz website. The Ocean Beach proposal as submitted by the applicant is, as you say, technically complex. Obviously money is not an issue. You have to respect the applicant's self-belief if nothing else.

    So, what is the issue? For me, its not about hobbling the rich guys. Its not about building a local Miami for the well heeled. I think that the development should not proceed simply because to me the timing is wrong. Perhaps in 100 years there may be a pressing need for further subdivision of some description but me thinks surely not right now.

    As is often the case, the format of the question at hand could be just as important as the answer.

    Best wishes. PNH

  3. Let's get right to the nub of the matter here. I don't care what the plans say or what the trade off allows or any of the bullshit put up by the developers or the excuses by the councillors. What we are really talking about here is a proposal to allow the rape and pillage of a pristine part of our nation in pursuit of more dollars. The whole idea is obscene. If we allow it to happen, then its too late and we are all guilty.

  4. once lowedownz has benn completed at ocean beach is there anything to stop andy chopping up the rest of his land (at ocean beach),into 1.5ha lots and making himself more money to take to build his winfarm

  5. In the 1960's there use to be only two old wooden clinker boats out at Waimarama.

    Fishing was bounterful. Kina washed up on the Island, see schools of fish in the waves.

    As the 1970's arrived, out board motors were here.

    Harvesting was alot easier. The 1980's, 1990's and 2000's came the roads got better. Cars were more reliable and the boats could be bought in from town daily . Now Waimarama's Pataka is not just feeding the small community of Waimarama and but two cities and other rural areas daily .

    Boats now have all the bells and whisltles. Fish finders,scoober gear and different fishing methods due to better equipment.

    In summer you can see up to 60-100 boats launch in one day….

    Multiply that daily? Not bad for a small community with out a city.

    Im definately not for this developement. Who's does it most benefit? Not us locals!

  6. Agree with all comments and i am in total opposition to the development. It is essential that if you do not believe in the proposal then you NEED to make a submission in opposition. If you do not make a sub then you lose all rights to be involved in the sinking of this thing. Yes the documents are in planning speak and are complicated, but do not get bogged down in the detail. If you do not agree with the development in principal then the detail is not important, just the big issues, i.e. no other locations/options have been properly assessed, the area is in the Coastal Environment, the area is in an id hazard and landscape area and the development will spoil one of the last pieces of unspoilt coast lines that we have.

  7. Is nothing sacred any more? Do we have to build and put our mark on every thing?

    A small minority of people fail to realise is that empty, undeveloped beaches and country side are what the majority of people want. They do not need to see more residential dwellings covering one of the last pristine beaches in Hawkes Bay.

    New Zealand as a country used to be seen as one of the last outposts that would not destroy its environment for profit or individual gain. Why is there still a small element of people out there prepared to please only themselves while not seeing the big picture?

    Ocean beach should stay the beautiful, sometimes desolate but an undeveloped gem of Hawkes Bay for our children. As a resource, it has shaped thousands of individuals growing up just fine the way it is.

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