Park or Pool? Mosgiel Gardens

LifeguardRecently the Dunedin City Council called for submissions on the potential sites for the proposed new pool in Mosgiel. Despite people’s views on whether a pool is actually needed in Mosgiel the selection of sites for the pool is a contentious issue. The selection of four sites was provided in the Council’s consultation information, one was the existing pool site and the other three were variations on occupying part of Mosgiel Memorial Gardens. The frustrating part of this consultation process is that there was no indication of the actual footprint of the new pool facility, only a dot on the proposed position of the pool. So there was no way of actually knowing what the scale or shape of the impact of the pool placement on the gardens was going to be.

In the residential Mosgiel area, passive use open space and formal play areas are actually at a premium despite its proximity to rural land and the townships rural outlook. Public sports grounds and the walking area alongside the Silverstream make up the bulk of active recreational areas, while school grounds also play a significant area in this evaluation. The proposed pool development would take up a significant portion of the Gardens site especially when seen together with the provision of parking, access and plant development for the pools operation. Other effects would include the removal of significant trees from the reserve which would have a negative effect on the parks ambiance, landscape heritage and biodiversity values.

For these reasons the Dunedin Amenities Society submitted that it does not support the placement of the proposed pool on the Mosgiel Memorial Gardens. The effects on open space, passive recreation, recreational play and landscape values associated with the site are extremely high in a community where such space is limited. The Society also submitted that it does not support the large-scale loss of amenity trees from the Gardens which have given pleasure to the community for many years. The Society has suggested that if a pool is to be built, then the existing site will have the least negative effect on the area, dependent on the design that the project developers create. One thing that has not been considered is whether the pool should or could encroach on the adjacent Mosgiel Caravan Park which is on Council land. There has been debate about this facility before, perhaps its time to consider that debate again in lieu of the pool proposal. 

Two other issues came up in this consultation which are worth comment. The first was that if the existing pool site was used for a new pool that Mosgiel will be without a pool for 18 months while construction is undertaken. However, the inconvenience of short-term loss of the facility is equally matched by the long-term gain of a new facility should the capital be raised. Mosgiel and its environs have school pools and the availability of Moana Pool with 15-20 minutes’ drive of the area. Many other communities are without a pool facility and all manage adequately by using alternative facilities within their communities or the city on a permanent basis. The other issue is the notion that building the proposed pool in the current location would make it prone to flooding. There seems to be no evidence from the Otago Regional Council’s flood protection scheme that the existing pool site is prone or endangered by potential flooding. Currently the Silverstream has existing stop banks and if a flood breached them Mosgiel would have a lot more to worry about than the pool being flooded. It would seem more sensible to work with the Otago Regional Council during the design phase of the project to ensure any risk of flooding is mitigated. This would allow development of the pool on the existing site without the need to use the valuable open space and landscape values of Mosgiel Memorial Gardens.

Silverstream 1905

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The Dunedin City Council announced on the 19th of September its intention to consider selling 149 parcels of land across the city for a potential return of $10 million dollars.The sale of a variety of city properties has probably not come as news to Dunedin residents as the city struggles to find ways to meet debt repayments. However, analysing the list of properties that the City Council is considering for sale makes for sobering reading. What is clear from the proposal is the possibility of shedding undeveloped recreational open space, playgrounds and esplanade strips which are designed for accessibility and conservation of waterways. One site in particular that provides essential access to waterways and the wider track areas of Ross Creek falls into this category. So, the sale of such properties deserves closer examination of the public use of such land assets for suburban and rural community’s alike.

For an organisation like the Society it raises questions of the value placed on improvements undertaken by community groups and whether that investment will be returned for redistribution to other projects after any potential sale. In one example the Society have invested significant time and capital planting an area proposed for sale which the Council and community have benefited from. It could be argued that the land value has been increased and if it is sold does the value of those improvements get appraised and returned to the Society or the community? Many community organisations who make contributions in a variety of ways to public lands may have similar views and it may make organisations less enthusiastic to make such contributions in the future.

One of the other disturbing aspects of the sale proposals is the loss of open and play spaces, particularly local playgrounds who’s use often fluctuates due to generational change in community’s. Rationalisation of public property today, can mean diminished public areas that are needed in the future. Once again the question has to be asked in lieu of the Council’s playground upgrade programme whether sale proceeds of playgrounds will be reinvested into the community’s strapped for facilities and amenities. This is particularly relevant to these sites, as many are ones that have not been invested in or developed by local authorities over the years. Many of the parcels also appear to be older reserve contributions created as part of subdivision and this should stimulate further discussion on how this process is undertaken and under what criteria, so that the land is economically and socially viable at the time of development.

Highlighted on the list of potential sale properties was 76 Lovelock Avenue and a search of the City Council’s land map shows that this is a substantial portion of the Dunedin Town Belt. The land includes Opoho Park, Lovelock Bush and Bracken’s View. Now it would be easy to get hot and bothered and jump up and down at the notion that part of Dunedin’s oldest reserves was to be flogged off to the highest bidder, but it surely has to be either a clerical error or a practical joke in very poor taste. Needless to say the Society will be keeping a firm eye on this process, particularly the rational of the selection process and the methodology of consultation with the community. As for the sale of the Town Belt, well it’s probably best to take that with a grain of salt and quote a well-known beer commercial, as its doubtful the City Council are that brave.

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