On 17th September 2019 a decision was made (item 15) by the former Local Board that last month cemented a significant loss for the Devonport community. When the long-term future of the Devonport Bowling Club on Devonport Domain was being decided (following the club’s dissolution in 2016) the Devonport Museum requested use of one of the buildings on the site to store some of their items (image above shows that building 'B'). Council staff did not support this request noting a concern that 'it may be difficult to relocate the group when the long-term use of the site is to be progressed,' and because 'it does not accommodate other groups in the Community seeking storage.'
The Local Board felt the request was fine, because it would be 'short term in nature i.e. month by month', because of the 'longstanding relationship the local board has with the museum' and the fact that the museum gave an undertaking 'that it will vacate the premises if notice is served and that there is no expectation an alternative arrangement will be provided by the local board.' Access was granted by resolution by the whole board.
An expression of interest process was commenced, inviting appropriate organisations to submit an application to lease the former bowling club site. The reserve is classified as a recreation reserve under the Reserves Act and is therefore intended to provide ‘recreation and sporting activities and the physical welfare and enjoyment of the public… with an emphasis on the retention of open spaces and on recreational activities.’ (section 17 (1)).
Two applications were received. One, a thorough 66pg proposal from the North Shore Cricket Club (NSCC) and the North Shore Rugby Club (NSRC) which detailed their shared aspiration to develop a sporting and recreational precinct that supports the growth in female participation in both sports. They would bust down the walls to open access to the full site, turn the bowling club rooms into a girls’ changing facility, and eventually construct a new multi-lane indoor cricket net facility that could also be used for other recreational activities. Another EOI was submitted by the Devonport Museum requesting that they retain the green shed at the end of Eton Ave for their storage.
The process was duly followed and finally, last month a report came to the Local Board for a resolution. It recommended that the Board agree to publicly notify the intended lease to the united sporting clubs. The proposed lease included the full 4,250m2 of the Devonport Domain, the clubrooms and green shed known as building ‘B’.
The sports group were made aware of the report and the recommendation and arranged to speak in support of the item at our Business Meeting (listen to it here). Chair of the NSCC Hayden Smith spoke about this ‘generational opportunity’ and explained how their vision was to “create a high-quality sporting precinct right on Devonport Domain, the place where both clubs had resided for over 100 years.” He discussed how the first phase of the project would be to bust down all the walls and remove redundant sheds, this would “enhance connectivity across the entire domain enabling walkers across an uninterrupted green space from Torpedo Bay all the way to Vauxhall Road; an immediate benefit for all.”
They had followed the process in good faith and they were deemed the best fit for the site. It all seemed straight forward, but then something happened. Chair Ruth Jackson emailed through her draft recommendations at 10pm the night before the meeting. In these reccs it proposed that sports clubs gained the lease of all BUT the green shed and the 250m2 of land beneath the shed, instead recommending an intention to notify the lease of ‘B’ and that parcel of land to the Museum for storage purposes. This new direction was news to Member Aidan Bennett and myself, and when we communicated with the sports clubs, we learned it was news to them too. The altered proposition had not been discussed with the sports clubs at all and if we hadn’t raised it with them just before the meeting, they wouldn’t have even known it was on the table.
Mark Davies from the Executive Board of the NSCC addressed the changes to the recommendations in his deputation. “This has come at the very 11th hour from our point of view. We’re pretty disappointed if this actually has some legs, so we have to bring home to the Board how important this decision is and the consequences it will have for the clubs… It’s really important that the board understands why that particular building is of major strategic importance to the overall vision and the clubs’ proposition. The area that it occupies is strategically key for a number of reasons. It’s situated in the only vehicular access point, and it will need to be removed to allow construction vehicles to the site, to allow redevelopment to occur. That building was targeted for removal as part of stage one to realise the vision of opening up the area (worth noting too that the block wall is actually attached to that building). That area (where building B is) is also the prime site for any indoor training facility. It’s away from the town houses which is an issue that we’ve thought about. The ability to use the entire site is really key to the vision that the clubs are trying to achieve.”
The original Chair’s recommendation was to approve the notification of an intent to lease to the Museum as the preferred applicant approximately 250m2 of the Devonport Domain for an initial term of 10 years plus two rights of renewal. In essence, if this recommendation was approved it would result in the Museum getting free storage on our recreation reserve for 30 years. Council legal advice informed the Board that this was not a legitimate use of the Domain, given storage is not classified as a recreation activity, and that in order to enable this outcome, we’d have to reclassify the section of reserve (a lengthy and expensive process) in order to change the portion to ‘Local Purpose.’ And so, the recommendations were changed to enable the Museum to continue the lease on a month-by-month basis whilst the Board initiate that process through the Local Park Management Plan process currently underway.
The problem with being a minority on the board, is that we have no power because of the Chair's casting vote. In this case, there was some pretty robust and heated discussion (I highly recommend you listen to the recorded meeting), but the motion was passed 3 to 3 using that casting vote.
Our arguments included:
It’s a huge disappointment, and it’s incredibly frustrating feeling so impotent when decisions such as these are being made. The crazy thing is, it’s all allowed. Even though we went in with an expectation of a positive outcome, no decision is actually made until it comes to a business meeting. And when this particular item came before us, thanks to that Chair’s casting vote, the decision was made, and it’s the community who will be most affected.
For now, there will be a public notification and iwi consultation process that follows the intention to grant the amended community lease to the Rugby/Cricket clubs. Subject to the satisfaction of any submissions, the amended community lease will be granted.
(I highly recommend, for those interested, listening to the recorded business meeting. It dominates the first 1hr20mins, and debate ensues at 2.40 in the meeting).
See the full minutes from the business meeting here in item 14.
See coverage in the Devonport Flagstaff in the editors' piece and on pg 21.
Elected member of the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board for the 2019-2022 Election Term.