The Friends of Queen Elizabeth Park have just celebrated their 100th monthly meeting — and 60 years’ of community activities.
But I must warn of new threats to the Park.
The Friends were established by the Greater Wellington Regional Council in 2004 to improve links with the community and defuse a controversy over proposals for motor sports in the Park.
A local pressure group, with support from some in the KCDC, was pushing hard for a motor-racing track in the Park.
Agreement on Whareroa
Although the first Friends committee was split 50/50 into those who were pro- and anti- motor sport there was agreement on developing projects to restore the Whareroa stream in the Park .
Luckily, the strong community reaction to the motor sport proposal meant that eventually it died.
This year is also the Jubilee (60th anniversary) of the establishment of Queen Elizabeth Park as a community recreational facility.
Sixty years ago Queen Elizabeth Park was not a pretty sight — a few open paddocks , degraded dunes and wrecked bush remnants.
A few hardy souls — among them June Rowland, Daphne Steele and others — started to nag the Regional Council, saying a special effort was needed to develop the Park into a green space for local community recreation .
Eventually the council started to come on board and supported the local volunteers but there were always threats.
For example it was suggested there should be two golf courses there…and later the motor sport proposal surfaced.
200,000 native plants
The Friends and Greater Wellington started to fund raise funds: gaining $200,000 in competitive grants for a programme to plant 200,000 native plants in 10 years.
Streams were restored ; a rare dune forest remnant was protected and expanded; wetlands were established (despite buried US bombs!); dunes were restored and protected; and some.1200 pests were killed by Michael Stace in 3 years — and the birds started to come back .
New bike and walking tracks were established .
Much of this was made possible by the Friends’ volunteers, with strong support from the Regional Council.
The new hide will be opened in the New Year .
We are also working with the NZ Transport Agency and and the GWRC to develop a family-friendly bike track from Paekakariki to Raumati — something hundreds of bikers have been asking for .
Unfortunately, this work to improve low-impact facilities in the Park is often interrupted by groups who want to grab a bit of the Park for other purposes.
For instance, a Paekakariki group wanted to set up a copy of the Auckland MOTAT transport museum in the Park — completely out of tune with what surveys have shown the community wants.
And the Friends were heavily involved in opposing a local developer who wanted to buy the adjacent Landcorp Whareroa farm for sub division into 50 lifestyle blocks..This was stopped by the strong community action .
In another move, a group in the Regional Council wanted to destroy the 100-year old barn sited in the Park and replace it with a kitset American colonial barn.
This was forestalled by the Friends leading a charge to restore the old barn with volunteer work and a generous grant from the Regional Council..
These pressures on our Park never stop: Now we have the Wellington Omnibus Society wanting to dump 40 old buses in the Park
We already have some old bus wrecks sitting in the Park, so ‘Smash Palace’ here we come!
We must resist the temptation for the Park to become a dumping ground for groups who need a home for a few old machines .
With the development of the Wellington region along the coast, it is essential that our green space is protected.
Kapiti already sees 60 hectares taken every year for development, roading, and buildings, etc. In 11 years, this means an area equivalent to that of the Park will be gone .
We must remain vigilant or there won’t be another Park Jubilee!