Ocean Beach will not become Lowetown! Andy Lowe’s Hill Country threw in the towel today and officially withdrew its private plan change to develop Ocean Beach.
I suggest we all head out to Ocean Beach on Saturday to savour the beach and our victory. It’s not entirely clear yet whether we won the war … or Hill Country is just re-grouping. We’ll come back to that in a moment. But today we can celebrate.
In his five-page letter announcing Hill Country’s decision to withdraw its plan (available here), General Manager Phil Hocquard denounced Hastings Council’s handling of the Ocean Beach decision-making process. Funny how the process was working just fine for Hill Country before the people got involved!
Rather than concede to the will of the people, or acknowledge the opposition of other authorities like the Regional Council and DoC, or simply admit the project is an economic loser, Hill Country has chosen to attack the Hastings Council, which, better late than never, finally expressed reservations about the proposal.
In his letter, Mr Hocquard notes: “There is no doubt that development at Ocean Beach will continue to occur …” Later he concludes: “For the moment, this particular plan change process is at an end.” That — and the “legal brief” nature of the withdrawal letter — suggests we haven’t seen the last of Andy Lowe and Hill Country at Ocean Beach. Five pages to say … “We’re pullin’ out” … hmmm.
But they should make no mistake. Those protecting Ocean Beach — Future Ocean Beach, Friends of Ocean Beach, Baywatch, Dawn Bennett and the Maori community, and many, many others — will remain vigilant and fully prepared to campaign and litigate vigorously should anything like this proposal rear its ugly head again.
The lesson in this for the community is to do its homework, organise and persevere. Just because a big developer clicks his heels and the Council swoons, all’s not lost.