A Huge News Week for the Coromandel
Written by John Grant on August 19, 2023
by John Grant
What a gigantic week of news. We may only have around 30,000 permanent residents but we bat equal to other districts 2 or 3 times our size. It’s been such a week, news-wise, both good and some not so good news.
First up was the news from the Hamilton Courts of the decision in the attempt to seek a Judicial Review of the TCDC decision to locate the Tairua Skatepark on Cory Domain by the Preserve Cory Park Domain Inc. The court action was resolved when the High Court Judge dismissed the application by the society seeking the Judicial Review. The majority of Tairua residents and the Thames Coromandel District Council breathed a huge sigh of relief at the decision with the focus again shifting to the construction of the Skatepark. The disputes over the location of the skatepark has cost more than $650,000 and divided Tairua for nearly 30 years.
The judge summed up how the town needs to focus on healing and the final paragraph of the decision, saying “Ordinarily and having regard to the lack of merit of the issues raised by the Society, the Council would be entitled to costs. Given, however, the location of the proposed skatepark in relation to the properties owned by members of the Society and the need to start to rebuild relationships within the Tairua community there may be good reasons for ordering costs to lie where they fall. Should, however, the Council seek costs and these cannot be agreed between the parties, the Council is to file a memorandum within six weeks of the date of this judgment setting out its position with regard to costs. The Society will then have two weeks to respond following which I will determine on the papers any costs issue arising.” This seems good advice and now is time to build not only the skatepark but also relationships that have become frayed over the last 30 years.
Also, this week was the news that no one wanted to hear. DoC as the custodian and the organisation charged with providing access to one of the Wonders of New Zealand, made the decision that it was just too hard to reinstate the track for this summer at Cathedral Cove, sighting a Tonkin and Taylor engineering report that says it was too dangerous to reinstate the tracks due to land instability and the continuing risk of potentially harmful rockfall and landslides. They left it open for people to be dropped on the beach by boat but are making it at their own risk (and the associated risk of tourist operators who may drop them at the beach). They have also removed toilet facilities for those who do land on the beach. No doubt there will be more on this topic over the next few weeks.
News also through this week that was of no surprise, with Fullers confirming that again this year they will not be running ferries to the Coromandel from Auckland. Why, because they are not able to find enough crew members to operate their boats and as they are pulling out of several Auckland routes there will be some truth behind this decision. This was very disappointing for so many as the easy trip by Ferry takes a lot of pain out of the loss of SH25A. Hopefully another operator will come along and provide the service that so many are keen to see back in operation.
The government this week released the GPS for transport. This is a Government Policy Statement and is effectively the instruction book for NZTA to follow on what is the Government’s focuses for NZTA to execute over the next 12 months. It reconfirmed the financial commitment on the work underway to fix the state highways and the viaduct build on the Kopu Hikuai. Missing though was the hoped for specific commitments on fixing resilience issues on the Coromandel roads. Not the repairs for weather damage but the improvements needed to stop some of the repeating issues such as flooding that closes key roads several times a year. It is hard to see these being done when they are not mentioned specifically in the GPS. To balance this, neither did the National statement of roads include any specific mention of the Coromandel road improvements. This seems to be a clear indication that neither party see the priority about investing any more than what they have to in our roads.
Finally, some comments I never thought I would make. NZTA excelled themselves this week. The Friday briefing for media and other interested groups at the Taparahi Bridge/viaduct build to replace the drop out on the key state highway, was well organised and demonstrated the very real commitment from NZTA to accelerate the rebuild of this broken highway and to make every effort to get it done as quickly as possible. Workers are on site, equipment is on site, foundations are going in and you can feel the energy while visiting the site. Well done NZTA keep up the great work on this key road even if the price to repair has now already increased by a further $10m to an estimated $50m. You can bet that many will be celebrating the reopening in March if not earlier next year.