Shoring up public access

Welcome Bay resident Chris Doms is stoked Tauranga City Council are progressing with removing encroachments from Forester Drive. Photo: Daniel Hines.

A Welcome Bay resident fighting to reclaim a public waterfront reserve is “ecstatic” about Tauranga City Council’s move to restore the esplanade.

Forrester Drive residents received notice in November that council plans to address reserve encroachments around Tauranga Harbour.

“I am ecstatic, this means so much for the community – the only issue I have is that some residents along Forrester Drive are trying to resist it,” says Chris Doms, who has been campaigning for access since 2018.

Restoring the reserve will result in a walkway link between Tye Park and Welcome Bay Road.

“As part of restoring access, we are asking residents to remove any non-structural encroachments, such as wooden and wire fences, steps, timber edgings, and private property,” says council’s manager of spaces and places Mark Smith.

“We appreciate this is a significant change for the residents along the seaward side of Forrester Drive and we will work together with them as this project progresses.”

Last year council completed a ten-year project removing encroachments along the Mount Maunganui and Papamoa Coastal Reserve.

This project saw hundreds of encroachments removed and the dunes returned to their natural state with native coastal plantings.

Mark says Forrester Drive encroachments need to be removed before February. “We will remove these remaining non-structural encroachments starting from February 2020.”

A Forrester Drive resident, who asked to remain anonymous, says she has “absolutely no problem” with removing the encroachments.

“We know encroachments need to go and we are in support of a walkway running along here.”

However, she would like to receive thanks from council for “looking after their land for 19 years”.

“We have mowed it, tended to it, weeded it and made it look nice. Council needs to thank the owners along here who have been looking after this land for a long time,” she says.

The woman also pointed out that several residents have put money into building sea walls outside their properties and would like the acknowledgement for that too.

An encroachment is identified by the council’s Encroachments onto Reserves Policy 2006 as “an unauthorised occupation, development or use of council administered land for private benefit”.

Encroachments may include any wall, steps, fence, garden furniture, lawns, garden plants or concrete paths which extend beyond the property owners’ legal boundary into a reserve.

Mark says seawalls will not be removed and council have not fully determined the requirement around trees and plants that obstruct public access.

He adds that some encroachments consist of concrete structures continuous with the sea wall.

“The most likely option is bridging the concrete structures, possibly with sections of wooden boardwalk and at one location an additional section of seawall.

“Wooden fences and other smaller encroachments will be removed to provide a predominantly grassed walkway.

“Construction of any required boardwalks will be completed by December 2021,” he says.

The intent is to restore the reserve with minimal disruption to both seaside residents and the environment, says Mark.

Chris says opening up the esplanade would be of huge benefit to the entire Welcome Bay community.

“It would just be another outdoor space for us to use. To have all these people that are here at Tye Park today being able to use an esplanade walk, it would just give our community exactly what it needs.

“Welcome Bay is desperately missing this sort of thing and people here sometimes feel a bit forgotten. We don’t get much attention in terms of capital investment.”

The Forrester Drive resident says some neighbours are concerned about lack of security and “every so often we get a spate of security problems around here, but that is just the reality of living near a space like this”.

“As the project progresses, we will engage with the residents one by one and hear their concerns. Any specifics can be addressed during this process,” says Mark.

Council could not confirm how many houses along the esplanade will need to remove encroachments.