BOPRC 10-year plan: BOP regional parks poised

Bay of Plenty Regional Council is consulting on plans to potentially consider Rotorua and the Katikati area as homes for two new regional parks. Photos / NZME.

Rotorua and Katikati could be home to two new potential regional parks proposed in the Bay of Plenty Regional Council’s plan for the next 10 years.

Whether to investigate new regional parks is one of three central questions the council posted in the council’s draft Long-term Plan 2024-34, with public submissions open until Tuesday.

It was also consulting on what it should do with its Port of Tauranga shares and how public transport should be funded.

On Thursday councillor Stuart Crosby told Tauranga Business Chamber members the council already owned and managed the Pāpāmoa Hills Cultural Heritage Regional Park near Tauranga and the Onekawa Te Mawhai Regional Park near Ōhiwa Harbour in the Eastern Bay.

This meant Rotorua and Western Bay of Plenty were left without something similar locally.

“We have an opportunity to consider two more, one in the Katikati area and one more in Rotorua,” he says.

“One is more advanced than the other.”

After the meeting, Stuart tells the Bay of Plenty Times the “more advanced” area was west of Katikati and was already well connected to existing reserves.

“That one makes sense in terms of preserving [green space] … it is far more along.”

Stuart says the council was talking to landowners and the national body that supports several regional parks throughout New Zealand could not divulge further details, including specific locations, because there had been no decision to pursue purchasing the land.

Park plans for Rotorua were also in their infancy, Stuart says.

This was why it was so critical to gauge how communities felt about the prospect of the new regional parks, he says.

Bay of Plenty regional councillor Stuart Crosby. Photo / Andrew Warner.

Regional parks were thought to provide recreation opportunities for locals and visitors, help protect the natural environment and protect cultural and archaeological features.

The council maintained regional parks and provided car parking for visitors, toilets, signs and storytelling, track development and maintenance, prescribed grazing, programmed native rew-vegetation and community events.

Nearly 100,000 people visited the Pāpāpmoa Hills in 2022/23.

Crosby said the potential new regional parks would help to support the two established parks.

They would also conserve large areas of land for public use amid times of growth and development, he said.

“That’s it in a nutshell; protecting and preserving land before the whole Bay goes through development … maintaining large areas of land for perpetuity for public use.

“When these opportunities arise, we have an obligation to consider them seriously, which is what these questions are all about.”

The investigations are expected to cost up to $450,000 over two years and could increase rates by an average of $3.30 per household a year depending on land value.

People were encouraged to share their views on whether the council should pursue the regional parks before submissions close on Tuesday.

More information can be found on the council’s website.

Kiri Gillespie is an assistant news director and a senior journalist for the Bay of Plenty Times and Rotorua Daily Post, specialising in local politics and city issues. She was a finalist for the Voyager Media Awards Regional Journalist of the Year in 2021.

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