The Whakatāne District Council has decided that the land leased by the Whakatāne Holiday Park will retain its current recreation reserve status, to ensure that it remains available to support future tourism growth.

The 1.98 hectare area at 1 McGarvey Road has been used as a camping ground purposes for many years, and the lessee, Whakatāne Holiday Park (2008) Limited, has sought to have the land’s reserve status revoked to allow it to be developed for residential purposes.

Legal advice sought by the Council in response to the reserve revocation request has confirmed that any move to change its status to ‘fee simple’ (freehold) would involve a complex process, with uncertain outcomes, due to the block’s historic, Crown-ownership background as an area of former riverbed.

The current reserve results from the amalgamation of two former Crown land parcels, which were vested in the Council in 1924 and 1953 respectively, and a third, smaller title, which was vested as Council reserve in 1975 as part of a residential subdivision process of the land immediately to the south. Revocation of the reserve would require the agreement of the Department of Conservation, on behalf of the Crown, which would see the ownership of the two main land parcels revert to the Crown. Under the terms of the Ngāti Awa Deed of Settlement, the Crown would then be required to provide a first right of refusal to Ngāti Awa to purchase the main parcels, at market value.

In a report received by the Council yesterday, Places and Open Spaces Manager Mike Naude said the revocation process offered no certainty that the Council, the lessee, or any other party would be able to obtain freehold title to the two former Crown parcels.

“The future use of 1 McGarvey Road has also been discussed by the Grow Whakatāne Advisory Board, and because this is the only substantial area of land available for tourist accommodation close to the CBD, the board recommends that it should be considered as a strategic tourism asset,” he said. “Staff concur with that judgement and believe that the land should be retained in public ownership to support the District’s future tourism destination marketing objectives.”

He pointed out that positive industry predictions of tourism growth were supported by the significant and ongoing increases in visitor numbers to the Whakatāne District, as measured by Statistics New Zealand’s accommodation monitor. The latest findings confirmed a 10.8 percent increase in visitor nights for the year to the end of July 2016, with international visitor guest nights jumping by more than 38 percent.

The Council adopted recommendations to formally notify the lessee of its decision and undertake a communication process to ensure the community is aware of the factors contributing to that decision.

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