Over a decade ago, then councillors Barry Mansell and Ann Chapman persuaded the Kapiti Coast District Council to buy a derelict piece of land on the northern entrance to Otaki. Initiated, aided and abetted by Keep Otaki Beautiful (KOB) the council finally agreed, after the third persuasive attempt, to buy it.
Since that shaky start, Pareomatangi as it became named, has evolved into a beautiful gateway to Otaki. Visitors to Otaki through the northern gateway now see a park with established trees, shrubs, grasses and mowed lawn rather than a wasteland.
There is a well maintained walking track around the park, blossoms and daffodils in the spring.
There are seats and picnic tables. Admittedly they have been replaced as the first ones were stolen by some ratbags. Ratbags who steal from the community are reprehensible! The park is currently a good foundation for a grand Public Garden.
More than just advocates, KOB became partners with council on the design, planting, maintenance, propagating and fundraising for the fledgling community park.
The park has won acclaim and public awards under the stewardship of a group of mainly retirees, who every Tuesday can be seen weeding and maintaining the park for the benefit of the community. Along with general maintenance, they also had a programme of potting on seedlings to plant as mature trees. Using community grants and community energy they planted a wide variety of natives and exotics, bulbs and grasses.
Over the decade they estimate they have planted the reserve with over 5,000 trees, 9,000 shrubs and 6,000 grasses. Development of the reserve has involved more than 7,500 hours of voluntary labour. This is a great achievement for a small group of volunteers some of whom have been part of KOB since its inception.
Then Land Transport New Zealand came to town and the park is in the way of the Otaki By-pass. A badly flawed concept for bypassing Otaki has 2 badly flawed options for the community to comment on. Both impact on the park. It is called consultation except properties are already being purchased so I suspect it is no consultation at all and the preferred option is the only option.
So what to do to recompense the community and the group? Undoubtedly KCDC will receive market value for the land. Will that include the value of the trees and shrubs, of the voluntary hours? Who knows but there is a case for recompensing the community for the hours of labour and the plants for the beautification of the town. Let us support Keep Otaki Beautiful in their attempts to reclaim their investment in our town.