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submitted 14 July 2022



RDRR’s members, associates and friends are opposed to the proposed revocation of reserves because it is illegal. It would violate the the Reserves Act 1977.

They also oppose the revocations in principle because the decision-making processes used by Rotorua Lakes Council exhibited predetermination, bias, improper purposes and took irrelevant considerations into account, and therefore violated the Local Government Act 2002.

They are deeply concerned about the secretive policy process apparently intended to evade the requirements of the Reserves Act, in order to sell 10 part or whole reserves to preselected public developers at ‘agreed’ but confidential prices and publicly-funded attempts to persuade the public to accept the loss of their reserves. These actions are regarded as inappropriate attempts to mobilize bias in Council’s decision-making process to achieve predetermined outcomes.

They reject the manipulation of the 26 May 2022 Council meeting procedures and note the evidence of predetermination, bias, improper purposes and irrelevant considerations being taken into account.


It is evident, in retrospect, that the Ministers and Rotorua’s Mayor conspired to evade the Reserves Act by proposing a Local Bill to give Council a time-limited power to use reserve land for temporary housing. They then gained Council’s support, in principle, for the revocation and disposal of the listed reserve land for housing, but without mention of ‘temporary’ housing on reserves. This was a serious deception, an improper purpose in terms of the Reserves Act.


RDRR members reject the ‘exponential growth’ justification for revocations as misleading and the use of the Council’s Open Space Levels of Service policy as insincere. They are appalled by the degree of anecdotal and opportunistic data used in an attempt to justify revocations.

General feedback received stressed many flaws in the policy process, most especially that Council has no moral or cultural right to sell reserves they hold in trust. Further, they failed to consider alternative sites that are either Council or privately owned. They failed to appreciate the advantages of engaging with private sector developers. There seemed to be a limited understanding of how housing market forces work, of how social housing impacts on established suburbs and the value of open spaces on mental health in a pandemic.

Finally, the responses to the Council’s justifications by site were contested or contradicted by local respondents, most especially the sale of the Lee Road, Coulter Road and Gallagher Road reserves, with the exception of the Wrigley Road Reserve.

In sum, the advice from RDRR’s members, associates and friends is not to sell any of the reserves, except for the Wrigley Road Reserve, and to more properly investigate the alternative sites and private sector development options noted. There should be no need to evade the reasonable conditions of the Reserves Act. The Council is vulnerable to a judicial review on many grounds.


This submission to the Rotorua Lakes Council (Council) is on behalf of the 1,093 members, associates and friends of the Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers (RDRR). It was initiated by an email offering advocacy through RDRR. Drafts went out twice prior to final submission.

Council identified ten reserves or part reserves (reserves) for sale to housing developers (developers). The Consultation Document provides the rationale for the selection of reserves in general and for specific sites. Submissions had a deadline of 14 July 2022.

Two full reserves were identified for potential disposal – Gallagher Street Reserve, which was reportedly not being used for recreation but for grazing animals; and Lee Road Reserve, which was alleged to have no facilities and is close to other large reserves. Eight other sites identified for consideration are supposedly parts of reserves that fall short of safety design standards and/or have no clear purpose or function and/or are areas where safety is a concern.


The general purpose of the Reserves Act 1977 is to provide for the present and future management for the benefit and enjoyment of the public areas possessing recreational use or potential whether active or passive. Two sections are immediately relevant:

S 25 Revocation of reserve status. Upon revocation of the reservation of any public reserve, the land shall become Crown land available for disposal under the Land Act 1948.

S 26 provides that a local authority may administer a Crown Reserve. It holds the land in trust. It has no power to sell the land.

The Department of Conservation has issued a Guide to the Reserves Act. It includes a provision regarding the

Change of use. Any change of use to which a reserve is put (if the changed use is not consistent with the principal purpose for the class to which the reserve belongs) would be outside the authority to allow it, and should not be allowed.

This provision indicates the principle of preserving the use for which the reserve was established.

It follows that the Council’s search for land for housing cannot simply categorize a reserve as underutilized to sell it. The phrase “active or passive” in the Reserves Act makes it clear that equal protection from development applies to all reserves. It is the reason why this Act exists. RDRR contends that Council’s attempt to convert reserves into housing is an improper purpose.


Relevant extracts from the Local Government Act 2002 include

S 10 (1) The purpose of Local Government is-

  • To enable democratic local decision making and action by, and behalf of communities and
  • To promote the social, economic, and cultural wellbeing of communities for the present and in the future.

S 12 Status and powers. This section is wide ranging. It makes no specific reference to selling reserves.

S 14 Principles relating to local authorities

  • (a) a local authority should conduct its business in an open, transparent, and democratic manner.

(g) a local authority should ensure prudent stewardship and the effective use of its resources in the interests of its district … including planning efficiently for the future management of its assets.

In RDRR’s view the Council is not meeting these statutory requirements in its handling of this matter. It has made a concerted effort to avoid its duty.


Maps overleaf show Rotorua city’s Eastern, Western and Central areas and highlight the reserves and/or parts of reserves proposed for revocation and disposal.


Eastern Rotorua


Central Rotorua


Western Rotorua


An article by Local Democracy Reporting provides evidence that supports RDRR’s view that the Council’s Homes and Thriving Communities Strategy has been driven by a conspiracy with an improper purpose of three parts


  • Develop a Local Bill to evade the Reserves Act 1977,
  • Plan to sell 10 part or whole reserves in Rotorua for housing, and
  • Mount a public lecture series, ‘Rotorua for Tomorrow – housing information series’ that is intended to persuade the public to accept the loss of their reserves and thereby alienate them from their rights under the Reserves Act.


A conspiracy is a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful. The conspiracy had its origins in April 2021 when a secret report from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (MHUD), entitled ‘Temporary Housing Options under Investigation,’ was given to Housing Minister Megan Woods and Associate Housing Minister Poto Williams. It was discussed by Council with the public excluded on 27 May 2021 and then kept secret for the next year to underpin its Homes and Thriving Communities Strategy. Why? There appear to be four major reasons.


First, the two Housing Ministers and Rotorua’s Mayor Steve Chadwick knew that seeking in-principle support from Council for selling Rotorua’s reserves for temporary housing would be politically controversial without a detailed plan and a successful public communication campaign – later mounted by Council’s Housing Lead and the DCE, District Development.

Second, they also knew that the proposal – to allow housing on reserves – was illegal according to the Reserves Act, and therefore would be doubly controversial. The reasons for not using S24 of the Reserves Act to seek revocations from the Minister were not provided.  What is apparent in retrospect is that the Ministers and the Mayor conspired to evade the Reserves Act by proposing a Local Bill to give Council a time-limited power to use reserve land for temporary housing. This is an improper purpose.


Third, they agreed to develop a Local Bill and rush it through Parliament under urgency with the select committee process shortened. This process would replicate Council’s recent and unsuccessful attempt to install co-governance representation through a Local Bill that was ‘paused’ when the Attorney-General ruled that it discriminated against non-Māori.


Fourth, five years after the Love Soup hikoi for the Kuirau Park’s ‘rough sleepers’, and four years after Renee Kiriona’s hikoi also “begging for a night shelter,” the Mayor and her power bloc of elected members and senior officials triggered the process apparently agreed with the Ministers – having Council support, in principle, the revocation and disposal of the listed reserve land for housing, but without mention of ‘temporary’ housing on reserves. This was a deception, an improper purpose.


This decision was also illegal because implementation was already underway, an example of blatant predetermination, and which violated the Reserves Act. On 26 May 2022 Council also released a hitherto secret report, ‘Guidance on Land Disposal’ considered by the Strategy, Policy and Finance (SP&F) Committee. Dated 14 October 2021, this report confirmed that the preparation of the Local Bill was already underway and assumed that permanent sales of the sites would be in the public interest – by allegedly improving Rotorua’s open spaces and creating permanent transitional and public housing. This was to mobilize irrelevant considerations.


This guidance was considered seven months before the preparation of a Local Bill and ‘direct sales’ to Kāinga Ora and other housing providers on specific conditions were authorised retrospectively by Council, another example of illegal processes in service of predetermined outcomes.


The Guidance on Land Disposal report also recognized that, while the use of Local Bill would hasten implementation, it included a cynical political calculation – that it would be seen as a “significant intervention by Central Government” and “restrict the ability for a locally led approach and [the] council’s ability to influence outcomes”. The Chief Executive apparently sought to distract attention from the secretive policy process by simplifying matters to a choice between ‘pace’ and ‘local conversation’. These calculations revealed predetermination and the tactics engaged irrelevant considerations.


Matters came to head at the 26 May 2022 Council meeting. The Mayor moved to have the revocation and disposal of the listed reserve land for housing referred to the public-excluded section of the meeting. When Cr Reynold Macpherson questioned the continued need for secrecy her reasons given were “so that we can instruct the chief executive on our view – our political view – before he gets into discussion with the minister” … [and] … “I think you have to trust us on this one to make sure we are protecting the commercial interests.”


When the Local Democracy Reporter asked the Mayor after the meeting about how discussing the May 2021 report in public would damage public or commercial interests she responded a few days later, through the council communications team, that her comment regarding commercial interest was “made in error”. It was an admission that an irrelevant consideration and/ or an improper purpose had been in play.

Regarding the public interest, despite the evidence of a year-long policy making process shrouded in secrecy, she rationalised that “We don’t go out to the community with half-developed proposals and cause unnecessary confusion or concern, as happened when information was leaked before the proposal to use some reserve sites for housing was finalised. That does not serve the public interest. There is an amount of due diligence that has to first be done to ensure there is a fully developed, viable proposal before making it public.”

These responses confirmed examples of predetermination, bias, improper purposes and consideration of irrelevant factors, all grounds for a judicial review.  There were others.


First, since the Mayor and her power bloc had been in discussion with the Ministers and their officials since April 2021, the need for due diligence to achieve what had been predetermined was an illegal reason for the absence of transparency and public engagement revealed by the whistle blower the Mayor referred to.

Second, Council was misled by the Mayor’s claim that public discussion on these matters could damage the public interest and endanger commercial interests. While the latter claim was walked back after it had had its effect, it left the public interest claim, and the Mayor’s expectation of public trust, unjustified.


Third, when the Mayor and all councilors except Dr Macpherson voted in favour of moving the item into the public-excluded section of the meeting, they tacitly joined the housing-on-reserves conspiracy intended to hide a policy process being steered towards a predetermined outcome, an improper purpose.


There is also a local precedent for a judicial review of a local government decision to revoke reserves. Bob Martin[1] has confirmed that, in the early 1980s, his grandfather Joseph Everard Martin donated about 10 acres to the people of Ngongotaha in memory of his wife Jessie Martin. It was to be known as the Jessie Martin Park and to be used for the recreation of the children of Ngongotaha.


When the Ngongotaha County Town was formed, under the Rotorua County Council, the two councillors decided to sell off the asset by way of a subdivision. The residents collected signatures on a petition against the sale but they were ignored by the County Council. So, with the Martin family, they took the County Council to the High Court which ruled against the subdivision.


The motion at Council on 26 May 2022 was that:

  • A Local Bill be identified as the preferred legal method for revocation and disposal and that Council notes proceeds of sales will be used to improve existing reserves or to purchase new reserves.
  • The Statement of Proposal to be consulted on includes in-principle support for direct sale to Kāinga Ora of six named sites and the conditions of sale of those sites.
  • Sites not being sold directly to Kāinga Ora be sold via market sale or directly to a community housing provider where appropriate, conditional on the purchaser committing to delivering housing within two years.


The vote was evenly split and passed with the Mayor’s casting vote. It is important to understand why, with reference to the evidence in a contemporary report by Local Democracy Reporting.


Mayor Steve Chadwick and Crs Dave Donaldson, Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, Trevor Maxwell, and Mercia Yates presented a united front when trying to justify the proposed direct (that is, confidential) sales of reserves to Kāinga Ora and other community housing providers. In essence they claimed the need to “end the misery” of the 800+ homeless in permanent ‘temporary’ motel accommodation, comprising 400 children, the 350 households, etc. They then near sledged those who questioned the proposals and released ‘rabbits’ to distract attention from how they have helped create the homeless and housing crisis, and to avoid considering the interests of affected residents. In doing so they violated their oath of office and duty to provide ‘effective and democratic decision making’ under the Local Government Act in the public interest.

Chadwick, for example, found it “sad” that there was pushback against “our people who deserve to be decently housed” and “excluding Kāinga Ora.” There was no evidence presented to justify the claim that they are ‘our people’ – and there is a persistent claim that incomers are now being redefined as ‘locals’ after 30 days. And since nobody argued that Kāinga Ora should be excluded, this strawman argument avoided answering why Kāinga Ora and community housing providers should get exclusive and secret direct sale prices and put Council officials at risk of being seen as employing potentially unethical practices. Thus, improper purposes were revealed. And, at the Mayor’s unjustified acceptance of Cr Yates’ points of order, Cr Reynold Macpherson was forced to withdraw and apologize for using the terms ‘mate’s rates’ and even ‘perceptions of corruption’, even though it had made the point about improper practices.


Donaldson saw empathy for those who live near reserves as ‘misdirected,’ rather than at the needs of 400 children, and that Kāinga Ora was the only potential provider of “safe, warm homes.” There was no acknowledgement of (a) how Kāinga Ora’s and Council’s homeless and housing policies had created the situation and ignored alternatives, (b) the interests of affected residents living near the reserves, or (c) the potential role of the private sector.


The introduction of bias did not end there. Raukawa-Tait sledged objectors by alleging that they saw ‘poor people’ as ‘bad people’, which blandly ignored the law-and-order crisis on Fenton and in Glenholme, and the low public confidence in KO’s ability to manage their tenants and properties. Maxwell echoed Chadwick’s defence of direct sales to Kāinga Ora, adding that the only alternative was “back to Kuirau Park.” It was not the only option and shrouded serial inaction by Council.


Love Soup’s hikoi on 9 September 2017 asked for a night shelter for 30 homeless people then living rough in Kuirau Park. Renee Kiriona’s hikoi for the homeless, also “begging for a night shelter” on 28 May 2018 was attended by about 120 in support of about 50 homeless. They were kept outside in the freezing cold and given what proved in time to be vacuous promises by MP Tamati Coffey and Crs Donaldson, Raukawa-Tait, Tapsell and Maxwell. Fast forward exactly five years and all that has changed is that the number of homeless has grown to over 800 and the bureaucratization of a homeless industry that has co-opted tourism accommodation.


The objectors were, by comparison, disunited. Cr Tapsell endorsed the misery argument yet objected to direct sales to Kāinga Ora because their buildings may not go to locals, it failed the public interest normally guaranteed by market values, Kāinga Ora’s uneven track record as a landlord and manager of tenants and property and acknowledged residents’ concern about public safety.


While her proposed amendment to remove hidden or ‘direct sales’ was only defeated by the Mayor’s casting vote, which authorised improper practices, it did not address the law-and-order issue, and would have continued to shroud and ingratiate her role as the Council Lead on Housing since 2013 in helping to create the current industry and housing crises.

Cr Raj Kumar took Raukawa-Tait’s bait and reacted to the sledging. Cr Fisher Wang shared concerns about Kāinga Ora’s management of public housing and asked why their briefing to the SP&F Committee was not to occur until after Council’s decision. This was another example of an improper process.


Macpherson objected in terms of principle and process; “the reserves are the property of coming generations and not ours to sell”, ‘direct sales’ will lack the antiseptic sunshine of transparency, and the proposed consultations will lack hearings and therefore disadvantage the less literate and fearful local collectives. Council has since decided to provide hearings which only partially resolved the issues of illegality and improper purposes.


The use of a Local Bill was not discussed and therefore not publicly justified.


With this context in mind, the formal proposal as set out in the Consultation Documents is now considered.



The justification for the proposal, formally entitled ‘Enhancing our Reserves and Building More Homes: The Revocation and Disposal of Identified Reserves for Housing’, is based on five claims:

  1. Rotorua is growing and our community urgently needs more homes and housing options.
  2. Council is acting now to respond to this. Our community has the opportunity to plan for a future that enables our city to grow in a way that protects and enhances the things we love.
  3. Selling reserves and parts of reserves that don’t meet the community’s needs as well as they could and enabling this land to be used for various types of housing.
  4. The proceeds of any sales would provide funding to improve our reserves network and potentially purchase new areas where there currently isn’t enough open space.
  5. The Council’s Open Space and Level of Service Policy sets minimum requirements and standards for the amount and quality of open space our community needs and the review highlighted sites that do not appear to meet the objectives of the policy.

The first claim, foundational to the proposal, assumes ‘exponential growth,’ as clarified in the Statement of Proposal for the reintroduction of Development Contributions:

Over the last 5 years or so, due to a wide range of factors, Rotorua has become a destination city. Many people have decided to move out of major centres and raise families in a smaller community or choose a better work/ life balance.

Rotorua has been one of those smaller destinations of choice. This has led to exponential growth needs across our city as referenced in the graph below. With this demand for growth, the infrastructure that caters for this growth needs to be created. This infrastructure needs to be timely and comes at a cost. (p.2)

With the managed inflow of homeless people over the last year, and associated deterioration in law and order with considerable middle-class flight, most RDRR members see Rotorua as having lost its standing as a ‘destination of choice’.

Further, it is misleading to claim that the graph referred to in the Statement shows ‘exponential growth needs across the city’. It does not and reveals an improper purpose. It shows that the number of new dwellings built annually has oscillated between 200 and 300 since 2007, fell dramatically to 60 in late 2013, and then climbed again steadily to just over 300 by late 2021.

It would therefore be a mistake to conclude or even imply that the building of new dwellings since December 1991 in Rotorua is substantially a reflection of local and/ or central government housing policies in New Zealand or the financial strategy of the Rotorua’s Council since the October 2013 local elections.

A more convincing causal explanation of the oscillations is provided by FRED/WALCL which suggests the impact of three factors:

  1. the Federal Reserve’s response to the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) with ‘Quantitative Easing (QE)’,
  2. its adoption of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) early in 2020, and
  3. the broadly matching monetary policies of the New Zealand Government over the same period that responded to the GFC with QEs and MMT, and then to the Covid pandemic.

The other questionable assumption in the Statement and in the Reserves Consultation Document is Rotorua’s ‘exponential growth’ in population and economic terms.

Census data from StasNZ summarised in Table 1 overleaf indicates modest annual average population growth of between 0.008 per cent and 0.0425 per cent with an average annual increase of about 500 people since 2006, with slightly higher growth in the Asian ethnic group (the 10.7% count in 2006 is a typo, probably 1.7%).

This indicates modest but not exponential growth.



Table 1: Population Growth in Rotorua District, 2006–18 Censuses

Population Category 2006 (count) 2013 (count) 2018 (count) Average Annual Growth (count)
All 65,901 65,280 71,877 498
Māori 22,734 22,410 28,839 509
Population Ethnicity (%) (%) (%) (%)
·       European 60.9 67.5 63.3 0.2
·       Māori 36.4 37.5 40.1 0.3
·       Pacific peoples 4.5 5.0 5.4 0.075
·       Asian 4.4 6.3 9.5 0.425
·       Middle Eastern/Latin American/African 0.4 0.6 0.5 0.008
·       Other ethnicity 10.7 1.7 1.0 N/A


More recent data in Table 2 from Infometrics confirms that economic growth over the last year to March 2022 has also been modest, compared to the Bay of Plenty and New Zealand, with a dramatic fall in tourism expenditure and a surge in Council’s residential consents.

Table 2: Economic Growth Indicators to Year End March 2022

Indicator Rotorua District Bay of Plenty Region New Zealand
Annual Average % change
Gross domestic product (provisional) 5.0 % 6.6 % 5.2 %
Traffic flow 2.7 % 4.6 % 1.8 %
Consumer spending 3.8 % 8.3 % 6.1 %
Employment (place of residence) 2.7 % 4.0 % 2.7 %
Jobseeker Support recipients -2.7 % -5.7 % -7.3 %
Tourism expenditure -1.7 % 6.5 % 7.1 %
Health enrolments 0.7 % 1.6 % 0.7 %
Residential consents 101.0 % 12.2 % 24.0 %
Non-residential consents 11.7 % -9.8 % 13.6 %
House values * 15.0 % 25.2 % 17.7 %
House sales -13.9 % -12.0 % -9.3 %
Car registrations 17.1 % 13.0 % 24.7 %
Commercial vehicle registrations 32.1 % 25.2 % 35.3 %
Unemployment rate 5.6 % 4.2 % 3.4 %

* Annual percentage change (latest quarter compared to a year earlier)

Again, the picture is one of modest growth with some contraction.

Nevertheless, the Reserves Consultation Document reiterates an unwarranted belief in continuing exponential growth (p. 4) but a belief that constitutes the basis for an improper purpose:

Our city urgently needs more homes and housing options. At the start of 2022, we published a report on Rotorua’s housing situation called the Housing and Business Assessment. The data from this assessment has set ‘Housing Bottom Lines’, which are the number of houses we need to provide based on both the existing shortfall and projected growth. In the next three years, we need an additional 3,560 houses; in the next 10 years, we need an additional 6,240 houses; and in the next 30 years we need an additional 9,740 houses.

It is not clear if these projections include the homeless to be housed at the scale indicated by recent applications from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. MHUD has applied for resource consents to offer five-year contracts to 12 motels to accommodate 825 occupants in 253 units, not including children aged under 18 months, with typical stays of 2-3 months. Four cohorts per annum over five years would create housing demand for approximately 16,500 people. This confirms an undeclared and improper purpose to selling reserves.

The second claim is that Council is acting appropriately by planning for exponential growth in the city in a way that “protects and enhances the things we love”. The proposed selling of reserves or part reserves is neither protecting nor enhancing community assets that were paid for through cross subsidies by those who purchased properties in housing developments. The proposal has no budgeted plans for the improvement of reserves. Again, this reveals an undeclared and improper purpose to selling reserves.

The third claim is that selling reserves and parts of reserves that allegedly don’t meet the community’s needs “as well as they could” is an assertion without empirical evidence. It is stated that such sales will enable this land to be used for mixed model housing (including public housing, affordable rentals, first homes, progressive home ownership models and smaller one and two-bedroom homes).

It is, however, not clear how the Council will ensure such diverse outcomes as Kāinga Ora commits to building public housing on the Lee Road, Coulter Road, High Street, Clinkard Avenue, Turner Drive and Steeles Lane reserves, and as the Fordlands Community Association identifies a public housing provider for the Wrigley Road Reserve, especially in a context of Tier 1 consenting (see below).

While the proposal for the Wrigley Road Reserve is supported by RDRR, due to the engagement by the Fordlands Community Association, it is remarkable that private sector providers are not to be engaged in any of the developments which would bring with it the discipline of private enterprise.

Nevertheless, it was declared that the sale of these reserves to Kāinga Ora would be conditional on:

  • Kāinga Ora and Council reaching agreement on the value of the identified sites;
  • Kāinga Ora committing to providing mixed model housing developments that includes a mix of social housing and progressive home ownership models and market sales; and
  • Kāinga Ora committing to delivering housing on the identified sites within two years.

Ratepayers would prefer transparency, especially regarding mixed model housing, and for the conditional sales to Kāinga Ora and to other housing developers to be settled based on market values. From their perspective, the conditions agreed to potentially enable improper purposes.

The fourth claim is that sales will provide funding to improve the reserves network and potentially to purchase new areas where there currently isn’t enough open space. As noted above, there are no proposed improvement projects for the reserves network. There are no details of areas that allegedly lack open space. There is no evaluation of alternative sites. These absences constitute bias in favour of the predetermined outcomes.

The fifth and two-part claim is that

  • the Council’s Open Space Level of Service Policy sets minimum requirements and standards for the amount and quality of open space our community needs, and
  • the review highlighted sites that do not appear to meet the objectives of the policy.

The following two sections examine the alleged failure of reserves to meet the terms of the Open Space Level of Service Policy and the quality of evidence provided in the Consultation Document.


The purpose of Council’s Open Space Level of Service Policy (pp. 21-35) is to ensure the community has access to quality open space that provides a variety of recreation experiences, and that the open space network is the result of good design and is highly valued by the community.

The Consultation Document reports (p. 4) that officials “looked at specific measures that align with the objectives of the policy” … [and] …  “assessed all the reserves in our city against the criteria in that Policy and that process identified sites that aren’t working best for our community right now and could better serve as land for homes.”

This evaluation must have been extremely complex and inevitably subjective to a degree but was neitner clarified nor provided. What were provided were sweeping generalizations largely refuted by residents and ratepayers.

To be clear, the criteria for evaluating reserves using the Open Space Level of Service Policies must be inferred from a wide range of sources; the objectives of the policy, four separate sets of standards (quality, quantity, accessibility and functionality), and as further nuanced by

  • land use and development subtleties,
  • acquisition, divestment, funding and implementation considerations,
  • relevant legislation, bylaws and policies, and
  • the Open Space categories and provision metrics guidelines. (pp. 14-16, 21-35).

Instead, the Reserves Consultation Document (p. 4) reported that the officials’ assessment identified the reserves simply because they met one or more of the following, thereby revealing the presence of bias due to their selected of criteria:

  • There are more reserves in the local area than required by the Policy;
  • There is no clear purpose or function of the reserve;
  • The size of reserve is much greater than the minimum size identified in the Policy and could be reduced without compromising recreation or open space values;
  • Having housing on part of the reserve would improve the safety and use of the reserve; and
  • There aren’t any other realistic options to improve the reserve to meet level of service standard.

Finally, investigative journalism showed that these general alleged failures of the reserves did not cohere well with the issues identified by site in a report provided to the Strategy, Policy and Finance Committee meeting on 12 May 2022:

  • Lee Road Reserve – no issues cited
  • Coulter Road Reserve – reports of vandalism from the Kohanga Reo, “ongoing anti-social behaviour”, ageing playground
  • High Street Reserve – “frequent and on-going instances of anti-social behaviour including drug use, broken glass, illegal dumping and rough sleepers”, ageing playground
  • Glenholme Reserve – “frequent issues with illegal dumping, graffiti and vandalism”
  • Gallagher Road Reserve – no issues cited
  • Linton Park West Reserve – “frequent instances of illegal dumping, vandalism and anti-social behaviour”
  • Wrigley Road Reserve – housing would “improve safety”
  • Turner Drive Reserve – “on-going and frequent vandalism to playground and redundant toilet block”
  • Park Road Reserve – “ongoing and frequent vandalism to the playground”
  • Steeles Lane Reserve – no issues cited

It is not clear from the Consultation Document how the criteria for evaluating reserves using the Open Space Level of Service Policies led logically to the outcomes of the assessment. Further, as some of these issues are a consequence of poor maintenance by Council, these evaluations are biased in favour of predetermined outcomes instead of being neutral appreciations of the situation.

Since predetermination, bias, improper purposes and irrelevant considerations came into play, it is important to consider the quality of data used.


It is notable that investigative journalism has confirmed that Council officers relied on “anecdotal evidence” and “staff knowledge and observations” to assess the reserves.

Qualitative data provided by a respondent suggested that this approach may be endemic:

Having walked around all of Rotorua with my dogs since I was a teenager, I know from previous exchanges that Council staff have no idea of the use and history of our walking spaces. I have written many letters about available spaces for dog walking shrinking drastically over the years and Council have come back and said that dog walking areas have increased. I can assure you that their assertion is completely incorrect.

At the 12 May 2022 meeting of the Strategy, Policy and Finance Committee, as noted above, council officers claimed that reserves had frequent and ongoing problems, such as alcohol use, drug use, anti-social behaviour, graffiti and vandalism, broken glass, illegal dumping and rough sleepers. The other general reasons they gave for selecting the 10 sites were that they

  • failed to meet the standards set by the Council’s Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design policy,
  • failed to meet the minimum standards set by the Open Space Level of Service policy, and
  • there were “no viable options to improve the reserve to meet the level of service standard”.

No empirical evidence was provided to justify these assertions and indicate the mobilization of bias in favour of a predetermined decision. Indeed, to check officials’ claims regarding ‘frequent and ongoing problems’, the answers to the investigative journalist’s LGOIMA questions revealed that there had been 34 requests for service at the 10 reserves for the issues cited over a six-month period. Of the 34 callouts, 14 were for equipment-related issues, 10 for graffiti, six for illegal dumping, three for vandalism, and one for broken glass.

Park Road Reserve drew the most requests for service at 12, Linton Park West and Wrigley Road reserves had seven each, four for the Glenholme Reserve, two for the Coulter Road Reserve and one each for the Lee Road and High Street reserves. There were no requests for service at the Gallagher Street, Turner Drive and Steeles Lane reserves.

Indeed, one respondent to RDRR’s offer of advocacy noted that

I live directly across the other side of Utuhina Road from Gallagher Street and I never knew that there was a reserve there …  I assumed that the land was privately owned because there is no public notice to show that it is Council land and it is fenced and grazed by horses and sheep. Had I known that this land was available, I would have advocated for the dog park or public access. They can hardly say that this reserve is not utilized, when the general public obviously did not know that it was ratepayers land. I think that this needs to be pointed out to them. Lots of locals could have been enjoying this green space.

Hence, there was some justification for Cr Macpherson arguing at the 26 May Council meeting that many were “utterly unconvinced” by the “council’s reasons for selling six reserve sites to Kāinga Ora and other housing providers”. Members’ “dearly beloved reserves” … he said … “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 believed that “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.”

Cr Sandra Kai Fong agreed. Given the degree of “community concern” and the “tight time frame” for submissions, she suggested, taking “a little more time and consideration” would have provided a much better decision-making process. She concluded that “A better analysis would be helpful.” Soon after this exchange on Council the deadline for submissions was extended from 1 July to 14 July.

Mayor Steve Chadwick admitted that elected members “trust the council to do adequate due diligence on proposals presented to them” and said that the public can disagree with assessments through feedback to the Council. She advised that “No decisions have been made yet and I encourage the community to have their say.”

This tacit admission about the uneven quality of the Consultation Document confirmed serious public doubts about predetermination, bias, improper purposes and irrelevant considerations used to justify the proposal. This impression was strongly reinforced by the nature of feedback to RDRR’s invitation.


General feedback received at RDRR’s submission-writing workshop on 14 June initially focussed on the flaws in the process that produced the Consultation Document.

Other process flaws have been found since the workshop. For example, a Lee Road resident has reported that the letter to residents living within 500m of their reserve inviting their feedback was late, in many cases not received until the second week of the submission period, and sexist, because where a married couple owned a home, only the man of the house got the letter.

Such process flaws were taken to indicate that the normal quality assurance provided by senior officials had failed, that the analysis and recommendations should be withdrawn for redevelopment and that the outcomes had been predetermined.

Most respondents resented the haste of the ‘ram-through’ process and how consultations coincided with and therefore competed for attention with Council’s other consultation processes. Many took the view that the decision should be referred to the incoming Council, one adding, “hopefully one with far greater wisdom and a more effective consultative style.”

Many respondents to the draft RDRR submission were intensely annoyed that ‘their’ reserves may be sold by Council to developers. This sentiment was not so much Nimbyism but cultural offense triggered by Council proposing to sell the near equivalent of wahitapu (sacred ground) they do not own. Chanel Brightwell’s stunning presentation to Council on 30 June, when tabling a petition against selling part of the Owhata/ Coulter Road Reserve, emphasized this point.

The generally held view is that reserves are dearly beloved sites of family, sports and cultural activities over generations, that is, community amenities that need to be passed on, not to be ‘cashed up’ by a Council that has, according to one respondent, “wasted millions on vanity, legacy and partnership projects with their mates”. Another respondent spoke for many when she said, “My thinking is to leave our green areas alone – once gone you cannot get them back”.

She was echoed by another member who questioned the Council’s recent adoption of Tier 1 consenting rules without public notification and consultation, another apparent violation of the Local Government Act:

The RLC proposal is very short-sighted in the respect that all urban open green passive spaces should be held in perpetuity for future population growth and to provide recreational space. With the move to create closer density housing to accommodate the Tier 1 policy of … multiple dwellings on each lot, …. there’s no public expectancy that each reserve is required to meet the current standard and maintenance plan but could be considered land banked to cater for future passive recreational areas as required, but not to be sacrificed for lower standard cheaper homes that bound historically established residential areas.

Another respondent remarked that

There will be much greater intensification under Tier 1 consents. With no appeals allowed. Far less outdoor experience will be available to those in Tier 1 homes. Therefore, far greater need for the reserves which will be even more highly valued by residents and ratepayers. I think Council’s reverse justification for revocations is overdone.

Some workshop attendees and respondents were also aware of potential alternatives to selling reserves. For example, some repeated claims on social media that Council owns more than equivalent land off Titoki Place off Malfroy Road to match the total area of reserves and part reserves being proposed for sale. While respondents also acknowledged that there could be some flood risks along the Utuhina River that would have to be mitigated, they were also aware that some of the reserves are flood prone, have shallow water tables, or in the case of the Steeles Lane Reserve, it apparently has a sink hole in the middle. This might have been expected. When developers were required to set aside a proportion of a housing development block for reserves, they would tend to identify the least desirable building land to that purpose.

Further, a LGOIMA reply from Council has confirmed that, of the 20,421 residential properties in Rotorua, 518 are rated as ‘vacant residential’. A one-time mayor has explained that a policy change could ‘nudge’ these land-banked sections on to the housing market. While not being a solution by itself, it could be part of an alternative answer to “depriving suburbs of their precious reserves”, providing Council is prepared to accept a legitimate role for the private sector.

The most puzzling aspect of alternatives apparently not considered by Council and Kāinga Ora was highlighted by a citizen who wrote to the Minister of Housing as follows:

I am the owner of a residential zoned sub dividable parcel of land located in Owhata, Rotorua. My whenua has capacity for 50+ houses and has all services available within the boundary. The property is situated at 10b Maple Grove which is less than 800 metres away from two local reserves that have been earmarked for sale to Kāinga Ora for social housing.


My whenua has been before Kāinga Ora delegates multiple times over the last three years. Given the housing crisis we are facing now and in the future I cannot fathom why Kāinga Ora keep turning it down. The process to purchase the reserves is expensive and lengthy, and securing the land is not guaranteed.


Te Arawa and local constitutions will not let the council take our beloved green space without a fight and if we win how much resources have been wasted on nothing?


Buying my whenua would be a heck of a lot easier than the hoops you have had to jump through for the reserves. Why didn’t you target available whenua like mine first? My land is ready now (it was ready three years ago), we need houses yesterday, but we are still (9 months later) focusing on community reserves?


I question Kāinga Ora’s strategy of buying reserves over freehold available land. Furthermore, Kāinga Ora recently purchased (deleted) within two months of the property hitting the market. My understanding was this property unlike mine doesn’t have key services available such as storm water and sewerage.


Mahi Tahi: I am also aware of numerous Māori Trusts who were willing to supply their whenua and partner with Kāinga Ora to address housing needs. Again, this option wasn’t entertained. If we are to address the housing issue you will need to look further than reserves as that won’t even address the current deficit let alone the future growth predicted.


Manaakitanga: I am Māori of Te Arawa descent. I see my people who live in those squalors called emergency housing. It is heartbreaking to see whanau in these places which are not fit for my dogs. Meanwhile, my whenua capable of providing a safe haven for 50+ whanau isn’t an option?


Whanake: I call on you as the Minister of Housing to ensure Kāinga Ora practices and upholds their core values. Buying reserves doesn’t portray Manaakitanga, especially when there are other options available including whenua like mine and collaboration with tangata whenua.


The level 2.8 hectares or seven acres referred to is at 10b Maple Grove. It is zoned Residential 1. It is 2.3 km to the airport, 6.9 km to the city centre, with reserves on two of the boundaries. Sewerage runs inside the southern and outside the northern boundaries. Storm water has two outlets. Power runs up the Lancewood Crescent entrance. The entrances through Maple Grove and Lancewood Crescent are vested for subdivision access.

In 1998 there was an approved subdivision plan for 32 sections (the largest being 2159m2) which included a dedicated reserve area. A high-density plan could yield over 50 houses. According to, house values in Maple Grove now range up to $735,000 exceeding the April median house price for Rotorua of $700,000. The owner, Mariana Te Kanawa of 10b Maple Grove (027 705 5462, has had had some brief discussions with Kāinga Ora but on 20 June 2020 was informed by email from the Senior Manager, Strategic Land Supply, that

We have been presented with your block a number of times by developers and real estate agents.

We do not wish to purchase this land because we have a number of alternative sites in Owhata being progressed for development.

One respondent spoke for many when she suggested that “Kāinga Ora needs to talk to the landowners and leave Council out of Real Estate.” From highly specific feedback from many others, it appears that Kāinga Ora did briefly consult with some other landowners, especially on the Eastside, but consultations ceased when it started negotiating with Council over the sale of reserves. Kāinga Ora’s aversion to buying land from private landowners and iwi has not been explained.

The negligible consideration of alternative sites appears to be matched by a shallow review of housing market forces. One problem is that, with persistent supply chain challenges and galloping inflation, the term ‘affordable housing’ has almost become implausible. Many respondents share the view that the economic reality of ‘social housing’ is that it needs to be close to public transport and social services, not ‘pepper potted’ into middle-class suburbs where it will disturb and clash with community norms and values.

Again, they reject the term Nimbyism by suggesting that it is a hard-headed appreciation of the risks of disputes in communities that insist on their right to law and order. A question often asked or implied by respondents was “Why repeat Fenton?”

It appears that Council would also be well advised to acknowledge the extent to which citizens’ mental health will be put at risk by the loss of green space and proximity to social housing. During the lockdowns many apparently came to realize how essential these spaces were to their health, in general, and to their mental health, in particular. Those who took a longer-term view saw it as irresponsible to deprive future generations of this form of amenity.

The next section provides summaries of respondents’ views with regard to each reserve, with some additional material coming when petitioners presented four separate petitions with a total of 1,251 signatures  to Council on 30 June 2022.

In sequence, Dr John Kininmouth and Chanel Brightwell presented a petition signed by 148 people related to the Coulter Road Reserve. Adrienne Smith’s petition was signed by 354 people associated with the Lee Road Reserve. Chris Staines’ petition was signed by 83 people and pertained to the Linton Park Reserve.

Don Patterson’s petition was signed by 630 people. It was additionally illustrated by verbatim quotes from residents associated with the Turner, Park, Kamahi, Gallagher, Lee, High, Coulter and Steeles road reserves (identified with an asterisk below).

Patterson’s argument was that Section 14 of the Local Government Act 2002 obliges Council to take “a sustainable development approach” by taking into account the social, economic, and cultural well-being of people and communities, the need to maintain and enhance the quality of the environment, and the reasonably foreseeable needs of future generations. He asked

Does not the well-being of the families who live in the 239 homes that directly border the ten reserves, let alone the many hundreds more that live within the 400m radius, have any value?

Why does the building of only 126 dwellings on the ten identified reserves outweigh the impact upon the lives of the people already there? Especially when there is other land available.


The justification in the Consultation Document for the selection of the Lee Road Reserve (LRR) was:

  • There is a large, open, grass space that has no clear purpose or function.
  • Site is not usable for much of the year due to drainage issues.
  • There are a number of other reserves within the wider area with Waikawau/Hannah’s Bay Reserve and Waingaehe Reserve located within 400 metres. Both are high quality open spaces that provide a range of recreation opportunities and are highly valued by the community.
  • Disposal of this site would enable capital investment into Waikawau/Hannah’s Bay Reserve to deliver on the actions of the Reserve Management Plan which was adopted in 2020.

A synthesis of feedback received follows:

  • An irretrievable loss of green space.
  • Disruption to our way of life by unknown neighbours.
  • Severe strain placed on an already overloaded water drainage system.
  • Evidence from existing homeless placements shows incidents of unruly and criminal behavior.
  • Other more isolated reserves would be a better choice.
  • The whole issue has been rushed and secretive with little information or updates being passed on to the affected homeowners.
  • Council has done a lot of work in secret without resident and ratepayer input. Did all elected Councillors and Council employees involved in the Reserves Proposal planning and decision making come out and view the position of the Lee Road Reserve and its proximity to Keswick Christian Camp, All Seasons Holiday Park and Lake Rotorua?
  • Keswick Christian Camp and All Seasons Holiday Park both share a boundary with the LRR. These accommodation establishments regularly host families, school groups, sports teams, kapa haka groups etc. with their guests often staying in tents and caravans. These are ready targets for anti-social behaviour, day or night.
  • All Seasons Holiday Park is already being asked by prospective visitors to Rotorua as to whether they take transitional housing. Visitors don’t want to be near transitional housing.
  • Hannahs Bay is divided into two areas by the flight path under which no building can take place. The proposed Kāinga Ora development is on the edge of this flight path in ‘lower Hannahs Bay’. There are approximately 80 properties in lower Hannahs Bay. The thought that 43 additional households, all Kāinga Ora housing, can be inserted into this 80-property community without impact is ludicrous – especially given the current anti-social behaviour patterns in the Fenton Street area.
  • The proposed development is not in the District Plan. People have an expectation that the plan can be relied upon. People have purchased property in the past thinking that any future development would presumably be gradual. Early this year a property transaction was proceeding while Council was actively discussing the building of social housing in Hannahs Bay in secret. Could the people involved in recent transactions take legal action against the Council because they stand to lose a significant amount of capital, should this revocation go ahead?
  • An addition of 43 dwellings with a strong potential for troublesome occupants, or associates of the occupants is a frightening prospect. Police response times / distance from the Central Police Station are concerning; we are too far for Police to respond quickly as things stand now.
  • The illegal use of trail bikes is frequent, but it has proved impossible to get reliably rapid Police attention. An email sent on 16 June 2022 to the Police Area Commander asking if police have been involved in discussions to relocate Fenton Street motel occupants to the city outskirts has drawn an acknowledgement of receipt by the Area Commander’s PA only. This creates a sense that the police have been consulted but don’t wish to embarrass Council or themselves by giving details or they have not been consulted but again don’t wish to risk embarrassing Council.
  • It is hard to imagine the Police would be comfortable having to deal with anti-social behaviour so far from Police Headquarters.
  • Potential for flooding. LRR rapidly ponds as does much of Hannahs Bay in sustained or heavy rain. Developing LRR will provide a catchment area for stormwater that can only go into an existing open drain running down Lee Road. This has already proved inadequate in the past when lake levels rise. Photographic evidence exists of very high-water levels in Hannahs Bay. Lee Road Reserve is Hannahs and Holdens Bay’s reserve.
  • Hannahs Bay Reserve (HBR) at the end of Willow Avenue is used by people from all over Rotorua and is often very crowded. As well, people don’t feel safe on the boardwalk and in the northern areas of HBR which is shrouded in trees. Many of us did use HBR but now don’t feel as safe as we once did. As well there are often dogs off leash. In summary, conditions in HBR have deteriorated somewhat and we don’t want to see them deteriorate any further.
  • Lee Road Reserve is a wide-open space, safe for walking dogs, children playing and kicking a ball, runners and joggers etc. Retaining Lee Road Reserve keeps it available as an option. What would the people in the Kāinga Ora housing do all day out in Hannahs Bay? This is often the fundamental question with many of these folk. Many of them don’t do paid work. Many of them don’t do voluntary work. Many of them don’t appear to have regular routines that operating a fully functional household involves.
  • School teachers tell us absenteeism is rife. How would the local schools cope? Have the local schools been consulted?

When Adrienne Smith tabled a petition with 354 signatures collected in 13 days by her, John Tevendale and others, she first emphasized the history of the Hannah’s and Holden’s Bay area. The LRR was vested in good faith in the Council to hold it in trust for the community, for recreational purposes, not housing. Selling it will be seen as an abrogation of that trust, she argued.

Second, she highlighted the inevitably negative impact if 43 homes for ‘transitional’ clients were built in a suburb of 80 households. Third, she stressed the importance of sustaining the holiday accommodation businesses in the area at a time of high inflation. She rebutted the argument that the resistance was due to Nimbyism in favour of citizens defending their real estate values, their right to peace and safety in their retirement despite the lengthy Police response times, and their access to publicly funded sports and cultural facilities.

Tracie* from the All Seasons Holiday Park in Lee Road reported that


We already field calls on a daily basis asking if we have homeless or emergency housing at our Park. If we did, they wouldn’t book with us. If we say No, but there is a property right next door to us that’s full of them, they won’t come. Simple as that. It WILL kill our business.


RDRR urges Council to cancel its planned revocation of the Lee Road Reserve.


The justification for the selection of this reserve was:

  • There are design issues from a safety perspective including no road frontage and minimal visibility into the reserve.
  • Reports of vandalism from the Kōhanga Reo located on the reserve and ongoing antisocial behaviour.
  • Reserve includes an aging playground that is nearing the end of its life.
  • Disposal of part of the reserve for housing would improve passive surveillance, safety and use of the reserve.
  • Kōhanga Reo leases part of the reserve (not proposed for disposal) and is supportive in principle of the proposal.
  • Disposal of this site would enable investment into park facilities including the ageing play equipment and a redundant tennis court.

A synthesis of feedback received follows:

  • Residents report 30 years of taking children and grandchildren to the Owhata Reserve to play, fly kites, play soccer, fly remote aircraft, play rugby and to walk and exercise their dogs.
  • Over that time the Rotorua Council has kindly built a playground for the young children that is used by all the young ones surrounding the reserve.
  • Building houses on the reserve would move recreation on to the road endangering families’ health and wellbeing.
  • Residents are concerned that investment of hard-earned money in improvements over the years will be lost. The loss of views overlooking the reserve across to Kawaha Point and Sulphur Point will affect house values when residents wish to relocate for their retirement years.
  • Residents in Coulter Road have picked up rubbish and generally kept an eye on the wellbeing of the Owhata Reserve at no cost to the Council.
  • Over the years Coulter Road has had most of the larger sections cross leased to the point where properties now have power surges and water pressure issues, which increases concern that the basic utilities will come under increased pressure with building on the reserve.
  • Residents were assured that the new subdivision on Wharenui Farm would provide over 50 low-budget dwellings, which undermines the case for building on the Coulter Road Reserve.

The 91-year-old Dr John Kininmouth explained that

My wife and I bought the property in 1959. We paid extra to live beside Owhata Reserve as the developer needed to gift the land to the Council as a reserve in perpetuity. Hence the extra cost was recovered by charging extra for the properties that boarded the reserve.

Four generations of my family have grown up and played on the reserve a part of the very lively community that is a true reflection of what a community of Kiwi workers looking out for one another could be like. The reserve is and always has been a key component in our community.

Chanel Brightwell added a current and futuristic perspective:

Coulter Road Reserve is a life force at the heart of our community nourishing our whanau of Coulter, Wingrove, Leith, and Wharenui Roads, as well as wider Owhata. This green space is our living, breathing ancestor existing alongside us in our daily lives. An ever-present figure who supports us all, irrespective of colour or creed – and expects nothing in return.

It is our safe haven to re-balance our taha hinengaro/ our mental health – and to care for our taha tinana/ our physical bodies. Especially at a time where we do’t have a lot to go around. There are no membership fees. There’s no pressure to conform to anything or to look a certain way. It is a safe haven, in a world full of pressure ….

Yet our ancestral lands, the Owhata Reserves manage to sit in peace – amid this modern-day hustle and bustle. The last pockets of sanctuary for our communities from a world of non-stop chaos. The cry of the manu; tui, piwakawaka, karearea, ruru, and kereru dominate these green spaces, with room to stretch their wings. Some of the last vestiges of safety for our manu, from the roaring of chainsaws ….

The majority of the community of Coulter Road Reserve do not support revocation. Revocation will crush the heart and soul of our community, pushing out tamariki out of our community, and place them in danger in yet another road. The heartbeat of our community will stop beating with the destruction of our sacred space.

She later reported that:

The Scott Ave reserve has been misrepresented on the maps, provided by RLC – as part of their research supporting the revocation of Coulter Road Reserve. This further strengthens the case that RLC’s research … has been less than adequate for what they’re proposing. Please refer to the image attached. You will see Scott Ave Reserve as proposed by RLC has housing on it already. The area marked in red is the actual reserve, as shown via Google Maps. It is also a lot smaller than RLC has demonstrated. The surrounding green space off the reserve, is fenced off and only accessible via Lakes High School.

Last week, in a discussion with a teacher from Owhata Primary School, … [it was confirmed that] … the community garden in Scott Avenue Reserve is no longer used in their classroom curriculum. A classroom … working on the gardens were intimidated by a carload of young Mongrel Mob members and the school made the decision to stop their excursions there. Plus the broken glass became too much of a risk to the children’s safety.

The Scott Avenue Reserve is not mentioned in the Council’s analysis.

Finally, an anonymous informant* explained that the

Coulter Road Reserve is the beating heart at the centre of our community. Its wealth lies in the life-force it has offered generations of whānau on the Eastside, and the memories it holds of our tūpuna before us, and eventually the memories it will hold of us for our mokopuna to come.


RDRR urges Council to cancel its planned revocation of the Coulter Road/ Owhata Reserve.



The selection of this reserve was justified by:

  • Large reserve that provides no recreation use or function.
  • Reserve is fenced and has been used for animal grazing under a lease for more than 15 years.
  • Good provision of open space within the wider area.
  • Disposal of this site would enable investment into existing sporting facilities and development of nearby esplanade reserves.

A synthesis of feedback received follows:

  • Younger children in the street play/bike in and around the cul-de-sac and the reserve especially in the summer months, contrary to what the Council claims.
  • Residents have even set up play equipment in one corner as no public facilities have been provided.
  • Residents use the reserve for running when working from home and for recreational casting practice on the weekends.
  • Residents purchased nearby properties because of the reserve and its proximity to their home and the benefits it offers.
  • Residents report that the street currently has a very family-friendly atmosphere. Removal of the reserve would impact this negatively and remove the local children’s ability to freely go out and play. This would be devastating.
  • Residents have safety concerns because of increased traffic that a housing development would create. The initial grade of the street is very steep so more cars will be driving down the hill at speed to reach the very end of the street.
  • This reserve is safe and no crime or safety issues have ever been raised.
  • Real estate professionals report that properties adjacent to the Gallagher Street Reserve in Springfield have fallen in value between $100,000 and $155,000 with the announcement of the proposed revocations, although there are other factors involved.
  • Real estate agents also report that properties near Fenton Street and in Glenholme have virtually stopped selling. And where a Rotorua-based agent had about 170 homes listed for sale a year ago, the same agent today has over 400 homes listed.


Kelly* asserted that

This reserve belongs to the people of Rotorua and our future generations and is loved by many. This Council has no right to sell it off for housing! Where will all the native birds go if this reserve is built on?

RDRR urges Council to cancel its planned revocation of the Gallagher Street Reserve.


The justification for the selection of this reserve was:

  • Design issues from a safety perspective including no road frontage and minimal visibility into the reserve.
  • Size of reserve limits the ability to improve open space outcomes and resolve safety concerns.
  • Frequent and ongoing instances of antisocial behaviour including drug use, broken glass, illegal dumping and rough sleepers.
  • Good provision of open space within the wider area.
  • Kindergarten that leases part of the reserve (not proposed for disposal) is supportive of the proposal.
  • Reserve includes an aging playground that is nearing the end of its life.
  • Disposal of this site would enable investment into the development of play and recreation facilities on Glenholme reserve which is located 250m from High Street Reserve

Feedback included:

  • I live in a quiet cul-de-sac, Davidson Street, just around the corner from the High Street reserve. At 2.40pm on Sunday my car was parked on the road outside my house when it was broken into (see photo). My wife was leaving our drive when she noticed a boy of approx. 15yo walk across the berm from the direction of my car towards the footpath. Thinking he looked suspicious, she sat and watched him when suddenly the rear door opened and another boy jumped out and ran down Davidson Street to the alleyway which leads to Devon Street (Police case # [given]). This is not the first-time cars parked on the street have been broken into and as long as the alleyway between Davidson and Devon Streets remains open it won’t be the last.
  • This alleyway is an easy escape for anybody committing crime in our street. There have been many instances of police pursuits and tracker dogs visiting the street. One of the police officers who attended said she has been down our street on more than one occasion pursuing individuals on motorbikes to the alleyway, where the police always lose them. She also added that the boys would not have been looking to steal from the car but to steal the car itself. Our fence has been kicked in twice and our garage doors forced open and three mountain bikes stolen. The police officer also urged me to make a submission to RLC. We have gates to our property which we didn’t bother closing prior to the theft of the bikes but since then we have.
  • Not realising anybody was home, there have been a number of occasions when people (always in pairs) have walked up our drive. When challenged they’ve always claimed to be looking for their dog, cousin, etc. One time one of them, having been told his uncle didn’t live here, became aggressive and asked me what my problem was!
  • There is a constant flow of what can be best described as unsavoury individuals walking from the alleyway, and presumably the bottle store at St Andrews, to High St, littering Davidson Street with RTD cans as they go. Other than these individuals, very few people use the alleyway. The exceptions are a small number of parents with children attending Elstree Kindergarten. If the alleyway was shut this would be no great inconvenience for them as they could access the kindergarten via the reserve entrance on Old Taupo Rd.
  • I accept that there is a great need for social housing in Rotorua and believe this development will take place regardless of this consultation process. However, the Council and Kāinga Ora have a responsibility to keep the local community safe and to endeavor to keep crime to a minimum by discouraging anti-social behaviour. For us immediately adjacent to the High Street reserve this means closing the Davidson/Devon Streets alleyway.
  • I live next door to the late Charles Sturt’s house and on more than one occasion he endeavored to have the alleyway shut, alas to no avail; if the housing development secretly planned for the High Street reserve proceeds, I implore the RLC to do so.
  • It is NOT clear to me which part of this park is to be taken.  If it is the North East part, how is potential housing to gain access? From the alley way that comes off Rimu Street?  Who would want to live tucked away in the back? Will that be closed and blocking access for Rimu Street kids? Regardless, the Council has allowed the playground to run down.  (They admit it). Recently that entire area off Rimu and Clinkard has been densified with infill which strengthens the argument to keep parks for the future as the large back yards that previously existed for kids to play have disappeared.
  • I do a lot of illegal dumping/fly tip pickups for the Council as part of my job.  I haven’t done one for High Street for months.  They are, anyway, on the periphery of the park, often at the high street end on the verge.  It’s not a substantive argument to get rid of an open space/park because ******** exist that dump.  Ditto broken glass around playgrounds.  Who’s to say that future generations of kids won’t be better behaved. Current generation’s behaviour is not a license to take away the future

Denise* pointed out that


We need to protect our green spaces. Not just for the people of today but for our future generations. With the coming of high-density housing throughout Rotorua, we need to future proof our city and have spaces for families to go and play or sit and picnic or just have a walk.


RDRR urges Council to cancel its planned revocation of part of the High Street Reserve.



The justification in the Consultation Document for the selection of this reserve was:

  • Small site (approx. 700sqm) adjacent to Glenholme Reserve – previously occupied by a toilet block when Glenholme reserve was used as a sports field.
  • Frequent issues with illegal dumping, graffiti and vandalism.
  • Disposal of this site would not impact on the wider use of Glenholme Reserve.
  • Disposal of this site would enable investment into the development of play and recreation facilities on Glenholme reserve.

Responses from two highly informed sources noted:

  • That Miller Street Glennholm Reserve has been allowed to run down, particularly the now decrepit toilet block. It is an indictment on current and past councils.   The fields are well used. Junior sports used to play there on the weekend and I think Glennholme School used it as well.
  • The bit they want to take is in a hollow and the only access is from the Clinkard Avenue alley way.  People from Clinkard dump rubbish in the alley way and on the Miller Street berms. THAT is NOT an argument to remove parks.


RDRR urges Council to cancel its planned revocation of part of the Glenholme Reserve.






The justification for the selection of this reserve was:

  • Design issues from a safety perspective including no road frontage and minimal visibility into the reserve.
  • Part of a much larger quality reserve which provides a range of recreation opportunities.
  • Frequent instances of illegal dumping, vandalism and antisocial behaviour.
  • Disposal of this site would enable investment in Linton Park.

A synthesis of feedback received follows:

  • The majority of the houses at the very western end of Linton Park are owned by mostly retired people. My concern is my safety, my privacy …
  • I find it hard to believe the council are saying that [the Linton Park Reserve] is not used. Every day I see people walking past my back fence walking their dogs. Children playing cricket and even flying kites.
  • My own family regularly use this park.
  • As far as rubbish dumping – I have walked on this Park over the years and yes there is the odd bit of litter dropped from people walking through the walkway but certainly not what the council are claiming.
  • The Edmond Road end can be a bit messy at times … rubbish is being dumped but I don’t think it is at the western end.
  • My other concern is the roadway with the traffic on Rimuvale St turning into Kamahi Place. At the moment there is a bend just before Kamahi Place and one has to be very careful even now with the traffic on that corner.
  • I just feel they are just dumping a problem from one part of town to another and I agree what about all the land the council already own down behind the substation on Malfroy Road.
  • Just leave our green spaces alone. Once they are gone, they are gone forever.

Chris Staines, when presenting a petition on behalf of 83 signatories on 30 June, bluntly rejected the Council’s claims of rubbish dumping, vandalism and danger, and challenged councillors to check the claims for themselves.

He also recalled that a Mr Smith had bought part of the reserve on the understanding that no more would be sold. And when Mr Staines was collecting signatures, residents stressed that that they had purchased serenity, that the reserve needs better seating, and it provides access to the nearby supermarket. Many were dog walkers and also used the reserve when they had visitors. For example, one respondent said,

The one that will affect me the most is Linton Park West as I walk my dog there on a regular basis as do many other doggie people. I didn’t realise that we were making individual cases for each Reserve, but we’re defending all Reserves from being destroyed. If I had realised that, I would have emphasised the importance of that Reserve for dog walking. Our dog registration is now $100 per dog, per year and all we get is more restrictions.


Anne and Patrick,* a retired couple, argued that


Kamahi Place and Linton Park West is paramount to our well-being and extremely important to our way of life. Living on the boundary of Linton Park reserve, the beautiful outlook and safe recreational area provides a sense of purpose. For us, and for all residents, and future generations, we urge this Council to keep our green space.


RDRR urges Council to abandon its part revocation of the Linton Park West Reserve.



The justification for the selection of this reserve in the Consultation Document was:

  • Significantly sized reserve which provides a range of recreation opportunities.
  • Proposal to provide housing on a small part of the reserve was requested by the Fordlands Community Association which aims to increase housing and provide more housing choice within the community.
  • Housing on part of the reserve would create road frontage and subsequently increase passive surveillance into the reserve and improve safety.
  • Disposal of this site would enable investment into additional recreation provision within the Fordlands community.

No refutation of these claims by Council and the Fordlands Community Association was received.

RDRR is accordingly supportive of the proposal to revoke part of Wrigley Road Reserve and Council’s proposal to collaborate on housing developments with the Fordlands Community Association.


The justification in the Consultation Document for the selection of this reserve was:

  • It is a significantly sized reserve which provides a range of recreation opportunities (previously used as a sports field).
  • Ongoing and frequent vandalism to playground and redundant toilet block.
  • Housing on part of the reserve would improve passive surveillance.
  • It is proposed to retain a good provision of open space including existing quality recreation facilities.
  • There is a lot of open space within the wider area.
  • Disposal of this site would enable investment into additional recreation provision within the Western Heights community.

Kirsten* reported that

Moving out of Auckland, we brought our property on the back of a reserve for a PURPOSE. We have TWO adult children with disabilities and access to the community reserves (Turner and Park Road reserves) offers us a close, safe place to visit on a daily basis, allowing our family a sense of freedom which supports the health and well-being that is important to our family’s quality of life.

RDRR urges Council to cancel its planned revocation of part of the Turner Drive Reserve.


The justification for the selection of this reserve was:

  • Design issues from a safety perspective including minimal road frontage and minimal visibility into the reserve.
  • Significantly sized reserve which provides a range of recreation opportunities (previously used as a sports field).
  • Ongoing and frequent vandalism to playground.
  • Housing on part of the reserve would improve passive surveillance.
  • It is proposed to retain a good provision of open space including existing quality recreation facilities.
  • There is a lot of open space within the wider area.
  • Disposal of this site would enable investment into additional recreation provision within the Western Heights community.

A highly informed source clarified as follows:

  • There is a lot of dumping here, but only at the North end of the park on Park Rd.
  • I got a pig carcass last Saturday off the little skate bowl that is there.
  • That is indicative of the people that LIVE in the area and NOT an argument for removing the park from the south end.
  • It is a lovely park that, once again, used to have sport played on it.  There is a shortage of parks in the area which is also being infilled by housing.  An argument to KEEP, not subtract parks.


RDRR urges Council to cancel its planned revocation of part of the Park Road Reserve.


The justification for the selection of this reserve was:

  • Large reserve primarily used to provide access to Western Heights High School.
  • Disposal of part of the reserve for housing would not significantly impact on open space or recreation outcomes.
  • There is a lot of open space within the wider area.
  • Disposal of this site would enable investment into additional recreation provision within the Western Heights community.

Two responses relevant to the Steeles Lane Reserve related to it being susceptible to flooding with a sink hole in the middle. Another provided a video which showed the area serving as a congested car park.

Ivan* explained that


I had to have emergency bowel cancer surgery last December (17th). Upon return home to Steele’s Lane two weeks later, I had lost 9 kgs of my body weight! Each day thereafter I walked on the reserve to build back muscle and mental strength, I believe this was and still is critical to my long-term recovery.


Jenny* confirmed that


I was and still am, Ivan’s support person. I was dealing with a serious issue of my own as a teacher, at the same time as supporting Ivan, which resulted in me having to take four weeks stress leave.


I walked in the reserve two to three times a day for my own mental health as recommended by my doctor. I needed time alone and, the Steeles Lane reserve being such a big space, enabled me to do that. Without such a facility, I know my mental health would not have improved and I often wonder if I would still be here today.


RDRR urges Council to cancel its planned revocation of part of the Steele’s Lane Reserve.


RDRR members, associates and friends are deeply concerned about the secretive policy process apparently intended to get around the requirements of the Reserves Act, to sell 10 part or whole reserves to preselected public developers at ‘agreed’ but confidential prices and attempts to persuade the public to accept the loss of their reserves. These actions are regarded as inappropriate attempts to mobilize bias in the Council’s decision-making process.

They reject the manipulation of the 26 May Council meeting procedures and note the evidence of predetermination, bias, improper purposes and irrelevant considerations being taken into account.

They reject the ‘exponential growth’ justification as misleading, and the use of the Council’s Open Space Levels of Service policy as insincere, and the disturbing degree of anecdotal and opportunistic data used to justify revocation.

General feedback received stressed many flaws in the policy process and that Council had no moral or cultural right to sell reserves they hold in trust. They failed to consider alternative sites that are either Council or privately owned. They failed to appreciate the advantages of engaging with private sector developers. There seemed to be a limited understanding of housing market forces, the social impact of social housing and the value of open spaces on mental health in a pandemic.

Finally, the responses to the Council’s justifications by site were contested or contradicted by local respondents, most especially the sale of the Lee Road, Owhata and Gallagher Road reserves, with the sole exception being the Wrigley Road Reserve.

In sum, the advice to Council from RDRR’s members, associates and friends is not to sell any of the reserves, except for the Wrigley Road Reserve, and to more properly investigate the alternative sites and private sector development options noted.

Finally, there is no need to evade the reasonable conditions of the Reserves Act. Council has failed to satisfy the terms of the Local Government Act about its decision making and is vulnerable to a judicial review.


This feedback is provided in good faith by the members, associates, and friends of the RDRR. They share a concern that what appears to be a broad community consensus against all but one reserve being sold being set side at risk of a judicial review.

RDRR wishes to be heard on 25/ 26 July. The designated spokespersons for RDRR are Denys Caves, 07 219 5329, 027 689 8457 and Mark Gould, 021 0864 5870,

Inquiries to Reynold Macpherson, 484 Pukehangi Road, 07 346 8553, 021 725 708,

[1] Interviewed 1 July 2022.