Project makes slow progress

How long does it take to build a basic seating and play area under Auckland Council’s Community Empowerment model?

An answer can be found in the project to improve the forecourt of Whangaparaoa Library. Concepts and ideas for this were first discussed at public meetings more than a year ago, but the plan itself remains buried in the bureaucratic process.

The project was initiated by the local board, which asked Future Whangaparaoa – a community group formerly known as Whangaparaoa 2030 – to advance it.

Future Whangaparaoa spokesperson John Davies says the organisation then “spent a year consumed by it”.

He says that health and safety issues, in part related to the ground surface and the prospect of vandalisation or theft of shade sails, have been raised by Council’s Investigation and Design team.

“Shade and seating in an attractive area were the key priorities raised by the public,” Mr Davies says. “There is also a small play area. Now we’re working out how to provide shade without waiting 10 years for trees to grow.”

He says that Future Whangaparaoa was about grass roots community development, supported by Council’s Community Empowerment unit. The Empowerment unit, launched in 2015, was to support community projects with a team of “community development planners and practitioners. It was designed to bring about “new and innovative ways of working with Auckland’s diverse communities … and ensure social inclusion and equity.”

Mr Davies says one positive is that the local board agreed at a meeting back in March to commit the best part of $100,000 to the library forecourt project. “The money is there and it will happen but these things definitely take time.”

He says that the initial concept drawings by landscape architect Paul Murphy were more radical and involved Auckland Transport closing the upper part of Main Street.

“Coast Plaza didn’t want that, and in any case the plan was well beyond the available budget.”

A revised plan was presented to the local board at a workshop in June. It is now being reviewed by the Community Facilities Investigation and Design team, which is tasked with making sure it meets council guidelines.

Council’s head of community facilities investigation and design, Rob Cairns, says that following the review, staff will discuss any comments with Future Whangaparaoa prior to providing advice to the local board for consideration and a decision.

It is intended that the concept plan will go to a local board workshop this month and a report will be presented to the board’s November business meeting for a decision.

After that, the draft plan will be put before the public and construction should be in the middle of next year.


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