Rotorua Reserves proposal: Some assessments based on anecdoteal evidence
5:14 pm on 14 June 2022
Rotorua Lakes Council says some of its assessments of reserves tipped for housing are based on "anecdotal information".
Turner Rd Reserve had no reported issues for six months. Photo: Andrew Warner / Rotorua Daily Post
One councillor says a better analysis of problems on the reserves "would be helpful" while another says he is "utterly unconvinced" by parts of the proposal.
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick says elected members trust the council to do adequate due diligence on proposals presented to them and the public can disagree with assessments through feedback to the council.
On 12 May, council officers presented the proposal - which would dispose of 10 reserve sites across the city to make way for a mixture of Kāinga Ora and open market housing - to the council's Strategy, Policy and Finance committee.
In that meeting and its report, council officers said they had identified several issues - some "frequent and ongoing" - with the reserves, such as alcohol use, drug use, anti-social behaviour, graffiti and vandalism, broken glass, illegal dumping and rough sleepers.
It cited the issues as part of the reason the sites had been identified for the proposal, along with tests against the council's parks policy, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design issues, and "no viable options to improve the reserve to meet level of service standard".
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick Photo: Andrew Warner / Rotorua Daily Post
A Local Democracy Reporting official information request revealed that over a six-month period the 10 reserves received 34 requests for service for the issues cited. Three reserves had no requests for service over the period - Gallagher St, Turner Dr and Steeles Ln.
The council said it had not drawn its assessments from requests for service alone, but also "anecdotal information" such as "staff knowledge and observations", and part of the purpose of public consultation is to test the council's assessments.
Of the 34 issues from 12 November 2021 to 12 May 2022, there were 10 callouts for graffiti, three for vandalism, one for broken glass, six for illegal dumping, and 14 equipment-related issues.
Park Rd Reserve drew the most requests for service at 12, followed by Linton Park West and Wrigley Rd Reserve on seven apiece, four for Glenholme Reserve, two for Coulter Rd Reserve and one each for Lee Rd and High St reserves.
The request for information covered the entirety of reserves, although some of the reserves have only partial sites identified for housing.
Rotorua Residents and Ratepayers chairman and councillor Reynold Macpherson Photo: Andrew Warner / Rotorua Daily Post
Rotorua Residents and Ratepayers chairman and councillor Reynold Macpherson said many in his group were "utterly unconvinced" by the council's reasons for selling six reserve sites to Kāinga Ora and other social housing providers.
"[The] council's claim that some reserves suffer from crime, vandalism and public safety issues is not only disputed by locals, but the proposal to export homeless people from Fenton St motels into new social housing includes a naive expectation that they will improve their behaviour."
He said people resented the proposed loss of their "dearly beloved reserves".
In his opinion: "They were meant to be held in public trust by the council and maintained from rates. It appears that their trust in this council was not justified.
He also believed: "Confidence in the council's proposal has collapsed with their confused and confusing explanations that some residents insist don't apply to their reserves. It is a muddled mess."
Rotorua district councillor Sandra Kai Fong. Photo: Andrew Warner / Rotorua Daily Post
Councillor Sandra Kai Fong said given the "community concern" and the "tight timeframe" for submissions, taking "a little more time and consideration" would make a better decision-making process.
"A better analysis would be helpful," Fong said.
Evolve member Ryan Gray questioned if council data showed the complete picture, as some incidents would go unreported.
"I hope the council has fully quantified the positive use of reserve space and the consequences of removing it."
Evolve spokesman Ben Sandford there was potential in the proposal to provide housing and improve reserves.
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said elected members trusted council staff to do "adequate due diligence" and provide all the relevant information to develop a viable proposal and help elected members make informed decisions.
She said the public had the opportunity to disagree with any part of the proposal through the feedback period, which would be considered in decision-making.
"No decisions have been made yet and I encourage the community to have their say."
On Monday, council district development deputy chief executive Jean-Paul Gaston said issues may also be observed and/or resolved during routine checks, maintenance or planned works and or may be brought to staff's attention directly.
He said assessments considered information from "multiple sources going back several years", including assessment against the council's parks policy, consideration of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design factors, requests for service and "anecdotal information".
That included "staff knowledge and observations" and information from conversations and engagement with residents.
Rotorua Lakes Council district development deputy chief executive Jean-Paul Gaston. Photo: Andrew Warner / Rotorua Daily Post
He said an example was in Western Heights where Sport BOP children told the council that ongoing vandalism and anti-social behaviour in reserves meant they did not feel safe using them.
Gaston said the council had updated recreational assets, planting and fencing but vandalism had continued.
A council spokeswoman said it was possible there were duplicates in the number of requests for service as some were recorded within minutes of one another.
Some of the reserves' issues were categorised by Local Democracy Reporting after the council did not provide that information as requested. The council did not further clarify the categories when invited to.
Consultation on the proposal is open until 1 July.