The Green Keeper – Aaron McConchie

Transparency, is all Aaron McConchie is asking for. As Chair of “Save Te Arai”, Aaron is frustrated by the lack of trust that has developed between the community of Te Arai, Auckland Council and Te Arai North Limited (T.A.N.L.), who is the developer behind the Tara Iti golf course and the associated housing project. “When Auckland Council is prepared to repeatedly grant resource consents, without public notification, for work on public land, and without any specific management plan, there is no trust.”

“Save Te Arai” formed in 2016 in response to an application by T.A.N.L. to move a public car park at the end of Pacific Road (off Black Swamp Road) inland approximately 450m. While that application has stalled for now, another non-notified resource consent was issued by Auckland Council allowing the developer to start moving sand as part of the proposed realignment of the accessway. Aaron says, “The council backs them by granting these applications, against the wishes of the local community and without public notification”.

Pacific Road is the only other access to Te Arai Beach between Te Arai Point and Mangawhai and is part of the Te Araroa Trail. “We just want to future-proof this access for the current community and for generations that follow,” explained Aaron.

“Save Te Arai” clashed with T.A.N.L. last year over raising an existing ford across the Te Arai stream to create a dam, facilitating the removal of water for use at the Tara Iti golf course. Having built the dam in public land, without consent, the Council served a notice on the developers to either remove it or apply for retrospective resource consent.

While the retrospective resource consent is still being fought over, Save Te Arai was astounded to discover that the developer subsequently applied for, and was granted, resource consent for a 30m long concrete vehicular bridge, 10m upstream from the dam. “Three government departments, local or central, have been usurped by a private developer without any penalty at this stage. This is inside public reserve land and, yet again, there was no public notification of the application” Aaron said.

There is a ray of light as Aaron explains. “There has never been any holistic overview of the area and its issues. This is why we have some hopes for the beginning of the Regional Park Management Plan which Council initiated just before Christmas.”

The area including north Te Arai, Te Arai point and south Te Arai have a range of reserve areas, designations and uses that require rethinking, reorganising and formalising and that is why the process to formulate an official management plan has begun. “Save Te Arai” will be submitting to the first stage of the consultation, which closed 26 January 2018, and they encourage everyone who is interested to get involved. There will be ongoing consultation over 2018 and beyond, so there is ample opportunity to contribute.

I asked Aaron what his hopes were for the future. “The ideal situation is that the developers present a coherent plan that states specifically what they want to do, how they intend to do it, explains the impacts, what is occurring on private and public land, and they ask what we think. We want a proper public submission process. “Save Te Arai” is concerned for what is going to happen in the block owned by the same developer to the south of Te Arai point. This is a stunning area but it needs to stay that way and not be overrun by development that is insensitive to the environment and the community. Development does not always equal progress.”