Park should remain “lungs” of city: Group
WITH the public having the ﬁnal say on whether or not the Hastings District Council will sell Nelson Park to make way for large format retailing, the Nelson Park Action Group has come out ﬁring in their last attempt to preserve the park for public use.
Despite the council’s proposal to establish a high-quality, multiple sport facility in Percival Road, action group spokesman, David Renouf, says their argument is simple – they just want Nelson Park to remain in use for the people of Hastings, whether for sport or leisure.
“The council wants to sell Nelson Park in order to develop a large retail mega centre zone on the site,” David says. “That’s despite the fact around 20ha of land adjacent to the existing central business district has just been rezoned to enable large format retailing to be established in an appropriate location.
“We fully support progress and business development in Hastings, but not on Nelson Park, which has served the Hastings public as a recreational and sporting venue for more than 80 years.”
Nelson Park’s history as a publicly owned sports ground began in 1921 when Hastings landowner William Nelson offered the Hastings Borough Council an expanse of open land close to the town centre at half its market value.
“William Nelson was a well-known ﬁgure in Hawke’s Bay who had established schools and become involved in many ﬁrms and industries,” David says. “He opened the Tomoana Works in 1880 and converted them for refrigeration by 1884.
“He met with a council committee to discuss his land offer on July 30, 1920. The minutes of the meeting record that: ‘He (William Nelson) is absolutely ﬁrm on one condition, which is that ultimately this ground must be held for the benefit and free use of the public. By this he does not mean that it shall be only open free to the public to witness games… but that it should be made a square where people could remain and where children could go and play at any time without restriction. He wants it, in fact, to be a lung for Hastings, which he sees as a large city in 20 or 30 years time.
“The council claims William Nelson’s relatives support the proposal. However, his great-granddaughter says she would prefer to see Nelson Park retained as an inner city park with trees and gardens – a breathing space in the city, which is exactly what we are pushing for.
“The council also says it will spend $3 million on replacement open space, which may include park, playground and picnic areas. But that is not conﬁrmed.
“Why not keep Nelson Park because it’s there now and once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.”
David says because the Percival Road complex will go ahead with or without the sale, Nelson Park could be used for more recreational activities than sports.
“It is close to the town centre and within easy walking distance, which makes it ideal for activities linking the park with the central business and shopping district.”
Meanwhile, Hastings District Council Nelson Park project manager, Mark Clews, says the park is the only site close to the Hastings CBD that’s large enough to accommodate large-format stores.
“If Nelson Park is not available the large stores may go elsewhere and that could potentially damage the CBD the council has spent millions of dollars on,” Mark says.
“The council has decided the large format stores should be located as close as possible to the CBD otherwise they may establish outside the city on greenﬁeld sites. That could potentially hurt the city. “Large format retailing is a trend in the retail market. It began to appear about 10-15 years ago but, it continues to grow and it’s a trend cities all around New Zealand and Australia are experiencing.
“Council can’t legally stop large format development, but what it can do and, what it should do is try to manage that growth in the appropriate locations to minimise the adverse effects it can have on our CBD.”
Mark says the 20ha next to the CBD that has been rezoned for large format retailing during the next 20 years is mostly in blocks of 1-1.2 ha meaning they’re not big enough for larger mega stores. Many of the existing businesses will stay in the zone and will be comfortable with large format stores alongside and activities other than large format stores can establish in the zone. There is no way all the 20ha can or will be ﬁlled with just large format stores.
“The very big stores want Nelson Park so they can connect with other large format stores and council can better manage the traffic impact, parking and the design and appearance of the development.
“It’s important that people vote in this referendum. It’s an important decision that the community should make and it would be a shame if such a decision was made on the basis of 20 percent of the voting population.”
Ballot papers will be posted to all electors in the Hastings District from today, October 18, with a ﬁnal return date by post, of noon on 9 November.