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What´s upsetting the locals in Karaka Bay?

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By Michael Barnett
Anyone passing along the waterfront in Karaka Bay in recent months will have seen work going on to construct a new sea wall and reinstate access to the beach beside two boat sheds opposite the properties at 321 to 329 Karaka Bay Road. Prior to the start of this work, the Council went to great lengths to consult with our community and other beach users on plans for the seawall and reinstatement of step access to the beach between these two privately owned boatsheds, which had been demolished in the winter storm of 2014. All were given the opportunity to comment.

Recently it came to our attention that an objection had been lodged by the Walsh Jackson Trust (WJT) which owns these boat sheds, objecting to the proposed location of the steps with a request that they be located elsewhere. Apparently, the basis for the WJT claim was that public access to the boat shed area has previously encouraged vandalism to the sheds and the location would not provide reasonable access to the beach, as it is impassable at medium and high tides. Without any further consultation with our community, other users or Tangata Whenua, the Wellington City Council which is managing the project gave instructions to its contractor to construct the replacement steps at the south end of the beach.

As I mentioned above, prior to the start of these works the Council went to great lengths to consult with our community and other beach users on plans for the new seawall and step access to the beach.

The Trustees of the Walsh Jackson Trust (WJT) would have been advised and given plenty of time to object. Apparently they did not yet without further consultation with the wider community, the Council has now acquiesced to their request. The steps have been constructed at the south end of the new retaining wall at a location that is far from practical for reasons I identify below.

According to the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) that has jurisdiction over the land use north of the boat sheds, condition 7 of the building owners’ encroachment license stipulates ‘The structure shall remain the responsibility of the the consent holder and shall be regularly inspected and maintained so that access to the coastal marine area is not impeded by the structures.” Feeling that an injustice had been perpetrated I contacted the Wellington City Council and sought an explanation for this course of action. In reply the Council which apparently has jurisdiction over both boatsheds, the dividing strip of land and the foreshore on the south side of the sheds, quotes Ms. Walsh as saying

‘Public access to this boatshed area has previously encouraged vandalism to the boatsheds which has incurred significant repair costs’ and the location ‘would not seem to provide reasonable access to the beach area as it is impassable in medium to high tides’.

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My follow up question to the Council was: “Where is the evidence to back up these claims?” As a frequent swimmer at this beach, I consider the step down to the beach at the end of the concrete pad was the only safe access at high tides. Further, the claim that location of the proposed hand rail would prevent access to the boat sheds does not stand up to close scrutiny.

My wife and I have been residents of Karaka Bay since 1983 and regularly use this beach each summer. During that time, we have seen no evidence of damage to these sheds as a result of vandalism. There have been numerous instances of damage caused by southerly storms, the most recent being the damage caused to the boat sheds, road and seawall in 2014. Further, the boat shed owners’ consent does not extend to the concrete pad between the boat sheds, which is on public land and was constructed by volunteer local labour over 50 years ago, with the understanding that it would remain available for public access forever and a day.

Following my initial inquiries to the City Council, I received the following response:

…both boat sheds are owned by #327 Karaka Bay Road whereby the western shed is licensed by Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) and the eastern shed is licensed by Wellington City Council (WCC). WCC, in rebuilding the seawall at the above location, had envisaged to reinstate an access to the beach and this was to be located in-between the two boat sheds. On 4th May, 2018, WCC received a letter from Fran Walsh of the Walsh Jackson Trust (WJT), objecting to the location of the proposed stairs between the two boat sheds.’

This response went on to reiterate:

‘Public access to this boatshed area has previously encouraged vandalism to the boatsheds which has incurred significant repair costs’ and the location ‘would not seem to provide reasonable access to the beach area as it is impassable in medium to high tides’. Please note that WJT also objected to the proposed handrails to be installed on the boat ramp as this would prevent access to the boat shed. The encroachment licences require the holder to maintain the area and WCC obliged to WJT’s request because the proposed stairs would encroach within the boat-shed perimeters and WCC consulted all those with the technical expertise in order to finalise its decision to relocate the proposed stairs to the southern end of the new seawall.

Not satisfied with this response and somewhat disturbed that the Council did not consider it necessary to consult with locals and others who use the beach for recreation, I sought additional information including; details of the encroachment licenses for the boat sheds, copies of technical received, safety issues relating to the relocated steps and the lack of consultation.

A lot of correspondence has gone back and forth and the Council has continued to play hardball. It has refused to send me details of the encroachment licenses, declined to send me a copy of the letter of WJT objecting to the steps (this at the request of the WJT representative) and dismissed my query on the lack of consultation with those who use the beach, stating that the work is a permitted activity and no such consultation was necessary. Meanwhile, construction of the relocated steps is almost complete. Most serious of all, the Council seems to be contravening its regulations relating to the encroachment license for the two boat sheds.

What I find most galling about this episode is the action of the Wellington City Council in acquiescing to an objection from two prominent citizens without due process. Nor giving any consideration to the practicality of the location of the steps as constructed, which is well away from a car parking area opposite the Walsh/Jackson residence. The boatsheds remain locked and as far as I know there are no boats inside.

With the steps now ending on a boulder section of the beach, the only safe access has been cut off.

Is it any wonder that the locals in Karaka Bay are little upset?

1 comment:

  1. TrevorH, 14. July 2018, 15:52

    As a resident of Karaka Bay since 1982 I had a look at the new steps yesterday and the access they provide to the beach. I don’t see what the problem is? Great steps. However I still weep over the Cliffs of Desolation where Awa Road runs down to Worser Bay. The felling of the pines was a savage act of vandalism by the Council. Someone should be held accountable.

     

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