Rotorua Reserves proposal “based on anecdote”

Park Rd Reserve, Turner Rd Reserve and Wrigley Rd Reserve (composite). Photo / Andrew Warner / Rotorua Daily Post.

Rotorua Lakes Council says some of its assessments of reserves tipped for housing is based on “anecdotal information”.

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 May 12, 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 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”.

A Local Democracy Reporting official information request reveals 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.

Turner Rd Reserve had no reported issues for six months. Photo / Andrew Warner / Rotorua Daily Post.

The council says it has 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 November 12, 2021, to May 12, 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 says many in his group are “utterly unconvinced” by the council’s reasons for selling six reserve sites to Kāinga Ora and other social housing providers.

Rotorua Resident and Ratepayers chairman Reynold Macpherson. Photo / Andrew Warner / Rotorua Daily Post.

"[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 says people resent 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 believes: “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".

Councillor Sandra Kai Fong says given the “community concern” and the “tight time frame” for submissions, taking “a little more time and consideration” will make a better decision-making process.

“A better analysis would be helpful.”

Rotorua district councillor Sandra Kai Fong. Photo / Andrew Warner / Rotorua Daily Post.

Evolve member Ryan Gray questions if council data shows the complete picture, as some incidents will 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 is potential in the proposal to provide housing and improve reserves.

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick says elected members trust 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 says the public has the opportunity to disagree with any part of the proposal through the feedback period, which will be considered in decision-making.

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick. Photo / Andrew Warner / Rotorua Daily Post.

“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”.

Rotorua Lakes Council district development deputy chief executive Jean-Paul Gaston. Photo / Andrew Warner / Rotorua Daily Post.

That included “staff knowledge and observations” and information from conversations and engagement with residents.

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 July 1.


These issues were listed in a report provided to elected members for the May 12 Strategy, Policy and Finance Committee meeting, which determined whether to recommend the proposal to the council for public consultation.

Lee Rd - no issues cited

Coulter Rd - reports of vandalism from the Kohanga Reo, "ongoing anti-social behaviour", aging playground

High St - "frequent and on-going instances of anti-social behaviour including drug use, broken glass, illegal dumping and rough sleepers", aging playground

Glenholme Reserve - "frequent issues with illegal dumping, graffiti and vandalism"

Gallagher Rd Reserve - no issues cited

Linton Park West - "frequent instances of illegal dumping, vandalism and anti-social behaviour"

Wrigley Rd - housing would "improve safety"

Turner Dr - "on-going and frequent vandalism to playground and redundant toilet block"

Park Rd - "ongoing and frequent vandalism to playground"

Steeles Ln - no issues cited

SOURCE: Rotorua Lakes Council

-Local Democracy Reporting is public interest journalism funded by NZ On Air.

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