Hibiscus Coast Forest & Bird fears that the last remaining stand of undeveloped wilderness on Whangaparaoa Peninsula could fall out of public ownership.
Branch co-chair Pauline Smith made a submission to Auckland Council’s Emergency Budget, and also made a plea to the Hibiscus & Bays Local Board Community Forum this month.
The 23ha bush block, located between Whangaparaoa Road, Cedar Terrace and the Weiti River, is owned by Council and is classified as “an asset”, held by its property arm, Panuku Auckland.
It is this that concerns Forest & Bird. Pauline says that in the current climate, where Council is looking to sell assets, there is a strong possibility the land could go.
However, Auckland Transport (AT) says that the property was acquired for Penlink which is now being delivered by Waka Kotahi NZTA.
“The property is one of the land interests that Auckland Transport is recommending be transferred to NZTA to enable the delivery of Penlink,” an AT spokesperson says.
Pauline says the land’s value to the environment has many strands including as a wildlife habitat. It has long been identified by Council as a Significant Ecological Area and contains large stands of native bush including kauri, totara, kahikatea and puriri.
Forest & Bird volunteers have been baiting and trapping pests in the block since 2014 and Pauline says there have been multiple reports of kiwi in there.
She says a survey is planned to identify whether there are long tailed bats in the bush.
“It is ideal bat habitat, and a Red Beach resident found one in her garden about 18 months ago,” Pauline says.
There is an important pied shag nesting colony on the banks of the Weiti River. The Archer’s Block is also the source of Stanmore Bay Stream.
Since 2010, the local board has included having this bush designated a reserve as a priority.
The process of forming a reserve is not straightforward, and has been put on hold as the land was secure until Penlink is progressed.
“The local board needs to get that process underway as soon as possible and get it formalised,” Auckland Councillor John Watson says. “It’s been sitting there waiting for Penlink but now that NZ Transport Agency is moving forward with that, it could be in the surplus category. There is a lot of history about the need for it to be a reserve, which helps. But these are uncertain times.”
He says an additional bonus is that the land is steep and would be a challenge to build on.
Pauline made her first presentation to Council about designating the land as a reserve in 2012.
“A report by staff to the local board in 2012 clearly established the value of this land to the community and to wider Auckland.
“Council has the power to make it a public reserve, at the stroke of a pen,” she says. “But that same pen could see us lose it forever.”
• British author and MP Jeffrey Archer (later Lord Archer) bought the property in 1986 for $775,000 in expectation of a waterfront land boom if Auckland hosted the 1990 America’s Cup.
• The Rodney District Council bought it in 1999 for $2.27 million.