In conjunction with Whangarei District Council (WDC) and the Whangaruru Coastal Community & Sports Association Inc. (WCC&SA), the Whangaruru South Residents & Ratepayers Association Inc. (WSRRA) will be embarking upon the construction of a wetland and associated infrastructure on Council owned land. The site of the proposed wetland is bordered by Waimarie Avenue to the rear of a number of private properties along Oakura Road.

As many in the community will be aware, the process to establish a wetland has been a long, drawn out one. Plans for the wetland were commissioned and produced by esteemed architect/landscape architect, Harry Turbott (deceased) a number of years ago. Another detailed plan, albeit with a much wider scope, was also produced by local landscape architect, Mike Farrow of Littoralis in 2006. Despite much time, effort and finances being expended by members of the community (in particular, Colin and Deb Glasgow), neither of these plans came to fruition.

However, in early 2019, members of the Committee (with the support of Cr Murphy) met with Council representatives to once again discuss the establishment of a wetland. Leading on from that meeting, officers from WDC undertook to perform a number of tasks, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • giving consideration to what additional requirements/information is needed prior to approval and determining whether or not resource consents are required under the relevant district plan rules;
  • reviewing the technical requirements for the next stage of the community wetland design, especially around flood risk;
  • determining what further detailed design, costings, consultation and other supporting information is needed;
  • entering discussions with the Northland Regional Council (NRC) to ascertain the necessary regional resource consenting requirements.

Following on from that meeting, our then Chairperson, Nena Rogers, presented a submission to Council on behalf of the Committee during the April 2019 consultation period for the Annual Plan. The submission was successful and resulted in a grant of $20,000 from the WDC to go towards consenting of the project as set out in the 2019-2020 Annual Plan.

Further, a group within Council was set up to assist with the wetland project and a planning assessment authored by Infrastructure Planner, Heather Osborne, was provided to the committee to determine the resource consenting requirements under the relevant rules for the WDC District Plan and the NRC Regional Plan. It was noted that, contingent on the final design, a number of expert reports may be required before construction can commence.

Unfortunately, with the advent of Covid-19 in early 2020 and the restrictions that followed, little progress was made to further the wetlands during that year and into 2021. However, WDC Parks & Recreation Manager, Sue Hodge, informed us in November of 2020 that bespoke Auckland based environmental engineering company, Morphum Environmental Ltd, had visited the site and were very excited about the project. They believed it could be constructed fairly simply and designed using some of the design data that had already been gathered. Morphum then provided WDC with a quote to progress the necessary resource consent requirements, including consultation and design. Unfortunately this was higher than earlier estimates that had been made based on prior legislation, with a resulting shortfall of approximately $25,000. On the advice of Councillors Greg Martin and Anna Murphy, and based on a recommendation from the Infrastructure Committee chaired by Cr Martin, it was suggested that we make a submission to the Long Term Plan 2021-2031 to seek the additional funds to allow the work to progress. Our submission was successful and Council approved the allocation of a further $30,000 in the LTP to allow consultants, Morphum Environmental Ltd, to commence work in Year 1 (2021/2022).

Again, Covid-19 restrictions meant little progress was made throughout 2021. However, with the lifting of all restrictions in 2022, as a first step, representatives from Morphum Environmental Ltd travelled from Auckland in June 2022 to meet with parties from the Mokau Marae. That same day, a meeting also took place on site that included members from WSRRA, to enable Morphum to gather information from all parties and conduct site analysis, with the intended aim of compiling the necessary reports, technical assessment and design for the wetlands in the current year. Morphum have now provided the community with a draft design for the wetlands to allow for consultation to take place.

In August 2022, WDC, having consulted with nga hapū of Whangarei, specifically Te Huinga and Te Kārearea representatives, listed the Three Waters Better Off Funding (Tranche 1) priority programmes, outcomes and funding allocations. A sum of $850,000.00 was approved for the Oakura Sports Park Development and Wetland Restoration. This enables the realignment of the existing playing field and the addition of a second playing field to be fast tracked, as well as provision of two multiplay hardcourts (netball, basketball and tennis), new carparking, lighting, landscaping, earthworks, drainage and installation of a wetland with associated open space and pathways.

After what has seemed an interminable length of time and much frustration on our part, we are pleased to announce that developments are now progressing at pace. In large part, this is due to WDC appointing a Project Manager, Raymond Short, to oversee the whole development/site, to  engage the necessary professionals to undertake investigation and write the reports needed to compile an application to Northland Regional Council for Resource Consent. He has engaged the services of a Geologist, Hydrologist, Surveyor, Engineer, Ecologist and Consenting Planner who are all working together to put in the resource consent application. He has also engaged the services of a landscape architect to supply a masterplan of the whole site to ensure compatibility and connectivity between the wetlands, open spaces, children’s playground and sporting amenities. As a consequence, we are hopeful that 2024 will see much of what has been in the planning stage for so long, finally start to happen. We would love to see a children’s playground implemented in the next year or two and we will consult further with our membership and wider community in the coming months on this issue.

The Whangaruru South Residents & Ratepayers Assoc. Inc. will continue to work closely with WDC and the Whangaruru Coastal Community & Sports Association Inc. to ensure the best outcomes are achieved and our community’s interests are represented and valued. We will continue to provide regular updates as more information comes to hand.

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