Sandra Coney’s December 2014 Chair Report – Lopdell House, Te Uru, and the Te Henga Quarry

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WRLB Lopdell House opening

Members of the local board submit regular reports on recent activity and these are contained in the monthly agendas for the Board.  These reports will be posted here to give a flavour of what the local board is involved in.  This Report is from Sandra Coney and details activity in December 2014

The highlight of the last month was the opening of Te Uru Contemporary Gallery in Titirangi. This was a feast in courses, starting with a blessing by Te Kawerau a Maki. We missed our friend Eru Thompson at the blessing, he was too ill to attend, but were privileged to have Te Warena Taua clear the building. Te Kawerau had given some beautiful photos of Te Kawerau ancestors which were on display.

We came back the next day for the formal opening, with a great number of people coming to have a look. And then in the evening, there was another event for the arts community.

What a building it is! The five galleries range from small and intimate to large soaring spaces. Downstairs there are wonderful teaching areas and plenty of storage and exhibition preparation areas. The theatre and Treasure House have also been restored, contributing to a real arts hub feel about Titirangi. On 6 November, we were back for the launch of the Portage Ceramic Awards, with a great crowd of potters and clay artists in attendance for that premier event.

There were many people to thank for the completion of the building: the Lopdell House Trust, headed by Terry Bates, the many funders, the Council staff who oversaw the project, the architectural firm who designed such an exemplary building, the team headed by Andrew Clifford who will run the galleries.

Te Uru and the restored Lopdell House are enormous assets for the West and for the whole city. In eminence Te Uru stands behind only the Auckland City Gallery, and it has the potential to become a real drawcard and destination for visitors, from Auckland and further afield.

Titirangi enterprises and businesses are alive to this opportunity and there are conversations happening to see how the village can build on the new gallery. The only thing yet to come is the cafe/bar downstairs in Lopdell House. It is a large space which will soon be fitted out. The name of the eatery is Deco and we look forward to it opening its doors.

It has been a month of openings. The new Piha toilets and campground ablution opened with no fanfare, unless you count the Labour Day crowds and campers who instantly put it to good use. Denise Yates and I attended the opening of the new 1st Response Garage in the Piha campground.  A vehicle parked without the brakes on damaged the old garage on the site beyond repair, and the Local Board put in some extra money that enabled a higher, larger garage to be built, which can accommodate an ambulance, and a small basic kitchen and sitting area for the crew. It was a pleasure to meet all the 1st response team in their smart uniforms. They are local people from Piha and Karekare, with families, houses and jobs to run, but they turned out 100 times last year and five of those were to severely ill people. Our coastal villages are a long way from the hospital when an emergency occurs, lives depend on 1st Response and they do a terrific job.

We were disappointed that the money we had put aside for some small improvements in Glen Eden was taken out of our budget. The mural in Baker’s Lane is going ahead and the book sculpture outside Glen Eden Library is to be removed. To demonstrate what Glen Eden could be like we are inaugurating a “pop-up” town square in Glenmall from 13 December until March.

This will be created with “lawn”, bean bags, cafe tables and chairs and will feature food, coffee, events, music and games, and we invite people to lounge and linger. It should be great fun.

Some other achievements of the month for me were giving the Board’s submission on the Waikumete Cemetery Management Plan; the unveiling of the restored Wallis angel in Waikumete Cemetery to which project the Board had given a small amount to the Friends of Waikumete; two lupin removal days on North Piha beach, the first steps in the implementation of the Piha Reserves Restoration Plan; and participating in the Consular Corps flag raising where I got to help raise the Cook Islands flag.

A downer for the Board was the news that the Watercare Board had decided to close the historic Rain Forest Express and the Waitakere Tramline. There had been slips on the Rain Forest Express line and after some reports, Watercare closed both lines. For some people of limited mobility or young families, the Rain Forest Express was the only way of accessing the Waitakere rainforest and seeing the spectacular dams.

The former Auckland Regional Council built the wheelchair accessible Beveridge Track and linked Exhibition Drive, Beveridge Track, Arataki Visitor Centre and the Rain Forest Express and this was a great visitor service, especially for people, who because of lack of cars or limited mobility, could not get into the Waitakere Ranges.

The Board is raising our concerns with Watercare management and will promote some alternatives to total closure

The Board has received a lot of correspondence over the month about the future of the Te Henga Quarry.  There is a great deal of community concern about the future of the Quarry area and the fate of a substantial sum that had been put aside for rehabilitation.  There is also some opposition to the importation of cleanfill though it seems to have been long anticipated that some cleanfill would be needed to restore the site.

The subject of the Quarry is on this agenda.

Over many years, royalties have been paid by the quarry operator, Perrys, and  Waitakere City Council placed a sum of $115,000 annually in a Quarry Aftercare Fund that stood at $1.3 million at amalgamation.

It was intended by WCC that a sum of $2,055,000 would be available for rehabilitation of the Quarry by the closure that then was expected to be in 2016/17 (the closure is now likely to be 2015).  However, the Board has been informed that the fund has been incorporated into the Council’s general finances, as have all the royalties paid in the four years since amalgamation.

On 14 October I wrote to the CEO of Auckland Council asking for clarification on the availability of funding for restoration, a concept plan for the quarry, and subsequent work on recreational facilities. I will recap by quoting from my letter:

“In May 2014, the Waitakere Ranges Local Board sought clarification on the availability of funds for restoration though this has not been forthcoming:

“Requests that the CEO investigate the existence of the Quarry Aftercare Fund of $1,338,506.11 that was transferred from Waitakere City Council to the Auckland Council at amalgamation, and require ACPL to make this available for rehabilitation and restoration of the quarry area.”

–     Resolution number WTK/2014/1

The Waitakere Quarry Aftercare Fund was established by Waitakere City Council as a reserve fund to provide for the ecological restoration of the quarry once it closed, and this was identified in its Long Term Plan 2009-2019 (Part A, page 200).  I gather the reserve was released back to the general fund by Auckland Council following amalgamation, though this was on the basis of a staff decision on accounting practice rather than being a considered political decision. No decision has been made to change council’s commitment, though it is no longer clear what funding is available.

Of course, in the four years since amalgamation Auckland Council has received further money from royalties, which would be the vicinity of $1 million or more.”

The CEO replied that the WCC aftercare fund had been overtaken in 2009 by Perry Aggregates contractual agreement to undertake the reinstatement and revegetation obligations. As a result, he said, there was no requirement for a fund. In addition, at amalgamation, the Auckland Transition Agency did not identify a fund.

According to its new contract, Perrys is required to carry out recontouring and replanting before vacating the site, and Auckland Council Property Ltd which is currently managing the site, says that for this purpose some importation of cleanfill may be needed. I understand this was always a possibility as it was anticipated there would be insufficient overburden to do the job.

Auckland Council Property Ltd has also floated the idea of continuing importing cleanfill on an ongoing basis, beyond that needed for restoration.

There have also been discussions between the Board and the local community about other possible future uses of the quarry site. For example, as a dog walking area, tracks, rock climbing, nursery and other uses. How these would be funded is unclear, but the Board is disinclined to fund these out of its own budgets. For starters, the Board does not have spare money in its coffers, and secondly, it believes that as the Council has benefitted so substantially from royalties from the quarry operation, it is only fair that any developments should be funded from regional budgets.

Postscript:  These are the resolutions passed in December 2014 in relation to the Te Henga Quarry:

That the Waitākere Ranges Local Board:

a)  Do not support an ongoing commercial cleanfill operation in the quarry

b)  Requests a copy of the identified September 2014 Revegetation Plan and any related plans and information around the in-principal agreement between ACPL and Perrys

c)  Request a report back on Te Henga Quarry restoration covering areas including:

  The necessity of importing cleanfill as part of the restoration

  Management Plans related to the Quarry

  Previous agreement around the extent of restoration

  Alignment of ACPL/Perrys in-principal approach with existing community plans and aspirations

  Time frames of proposed implementation

  Projected costs

  Opportunity for community involvement

d)  Notes that the local board has expectations that local and other previously identified community groups and individuals will be empowered to be involved in planning and delivery of future restoration activity.

e)  Requests a report on the 12 February 2015 local board business meeting agenda in response to resolution number WTK/2014/1 asking for an explanation about the status of the legacy Waitakere City Council Quarry Aftercare Fund.

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