Yesterday’s meeting of Wellington City Council’s Environment Committee was briefed on the proposal by Council officers – the latest stage in an evolving investigation into the future of the area that was prompted by the collapse of part of the Esplanade seawall in last June’s ferocious southerly storm.
The planned roadway closure will be subject to approval by the Council’s Regulatory Committee – after public notification. If approved, the roadway would be closed from Reef Street to the southern end of Shorland Park – and through traffic would be rerouted via Reef Street and the southern end of The Parade.
The Environment Committee Chair, Councillor Iona Pannett, says the trial would enable the Council to assess traffic impacts – but also enable the public to get a taste of how the area “could work” if decisions are ultimately made to redevelop the area.
The Council’s Climate Change Portfolio Leader, and a Southern Ward Councillor, David Lee, says the trial could lead to significant changes to the beach and foreshore – with the possible reinstatement of sand dunes that could more readily cope with storm surges and expected rises in sea levels.
Fellow Southern Ward Councillor Paul Eagle, who lives on The Esplanade and chairs the Council’s Community, Sport and Recreation Committee, says the situation presents a unique opportunity for the community to positively shape the future look of Shorland Park, the nearby dog area – “Poo Park” – and to explore options for the former Island Bay surf club building that currently sits on the beach.
“We want to create a premier park for families so I’d like to see local children expressing their ideas – many in the community have fond memories of the former kids' paddling pool – and connecting it to the beach could provide better spaces for playing and swimming, walking and relaxing.
“Moving the surf club building off the beach and integrating it near the park could deliver a food outlet offering a decent coffee and authentic Italian pizza too, for example,” says Cr Eagle.
Cr Pannett says the proposal to temporarily close the road follows early consultation with the public – including a Council stand at the Island Bay fair in February where strong public support for a permanent road closure and redevelopment of the area was recorded.
“However we’re well aware that a lot of people – including members of the local Italian families with strong fishing histories – like the seawall and foreshore the way it is – so that’s why we’ll be doing more consultation.
“It’s essential that we give everyone a say on the proposals for the area.”