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VKK Domain submission: Kerikeri ‘Our town has a heart'

Vision Kerikeri has submitted the following in response to the Council's call for public submissions on their draft management plan for the Kerikeri Domain.

The Kerikeri Domain is a significant social and environmental asset that sits literally at the heart of our township. The evident high level of interest and concern about its future use and development indicates that it also sits close to the hearts and minds of the Kerikeri community and other stakeholders.

We acknowledge that the FNDC has presented a draft management plan that seeks to reflect wide-ranging feedback from the initial consultation process, and it provides a useful starting point for debate. There is certainly merit in some aspects of the plan - our primary concern is that the plan is overly prescriptive and therefore constraining, and there is some contradiction between wording and the proposed site plan.

The plan needs to be sufficiently directive to establish a long term focus for the development and enhancement of the area, and to maintain the integrity of the guiding vision. It also needs to be sufficiently ‘broad brush’ to allow space for innovation, longevity of thought, and an evolutionary creative process. Such an approach also allows for flexibility to align implementation of the plan with the availability of funding and other resources.

For the plan to succeed it is important to place it within the context of the township as a whole. The draft plan treats the Domain space as an island, rather than as a community hub. One major block to visual and material connectivity is the degraded ‘pavilion’ building, which has now been sitting in disrepair since June 2016, and has been declared structurally unsound and unsanitary. The building blocks important sight lines and town connection to the Domain, which comes directly in conflict with Council obligations to offer an environment which creates psychological welfare, connection and wellbeing.

The building was situated and constructed to accommodate the needs of organised sport, in particular rugby, which is no longer a function of the domain. It lacks flexibility, has little architectural merit, is poorly located and is no longer fit for purpose.

There is a unique opportunity for relocation and site specific design of a new multi-purpose pavilion, given the value of this location in terms of events, community fundraising, recreational facilities and increasing public use. Flowing on from increase in visibility and use comes improved wellbeing and safety as antisocial behaviour and crime has been shown to decrease in populated, visible locations.

The draft plan suggests a temporary structure to initially replace the pavilion building. Experience shows however that all too often ‘temporary’ solutions become long term compromises that satisfy no-one. The associated risk is that the process to vision, conceptualise, design and build a site specific permanent purpose built structure would be delayed. We would like to see immediate start to a process of community visioning and development of a concept, with Council approval, to facilitate access to funding. Design and implementation of a staged build can deliver much needed facilities quickly, with more to

follow as funding is gained. It is important that any building designed claims its full foot print in Stage One to ensure the building’s completion.

The draft plan contradicts itself between the site plan and accompanying text. There is a note to the effect that the building site could be relocated along the southern boundary, in reality there is no Southern Boundary but a South West and South Eastern Boundary. The draft site plan shows only the existing structure in current location. A much better approach would be a zoned area to allow flexibility of Pavilion placement on the site. (See BUILT ZONE on the attached alternative plan)

Looking at relevant sight lines into the park, and considering ideal pavilion locations from a design and sustainability perspective, suggests the placement of a realistic building footprint onto the site plan which also considers the skate park, vehicular access and basketball courts as part of the built environment. A realistic BUILT ZONE as indicated on the alternative site plan gives a degree of flexibility for community visioning.

The draft plan is very siloed and directive in terms of the way spaces have been designated. In the attached alternative site plan we put forward a framework for sustainability in terms of maximising the use of finances, materials, knowledge and human/community energy.

Rather than install one dimensional single use exercise and play equipment, we would like to see a draft plan which includes scope for innovation and ‘value stacking’ of human, financial and material resources. Landscaping, sculpture and planted areas can also be utilised for play and exercise if designed as such; this is a natural convergence that could occur in public spaces as in nature.

As a community hub all of the above may be considered in terms of enabling human connection. But connection is missing in the wider picture within the draft plan. How can a community Hub act as such without connecting to a wider social and urban infrastructure?

Visual and psychological links to the town itself are currently over looked. In terms of community wellbeing, cycleways, walking tracks and other assets should connect to this place. The alternative site plan attached shows visual connections to town along Cobham Rd. This needs to be looked at alongside infrastructure and town planning. A simple change in material, from seal to cobbles or exposed aggregate concrete, would slow traffic down through this area and give the psychological feel of pedestrian right of way which in turn creates connection through a ‘shared’ area. Other potential points of connection with town would need to be worked through with private land owners.

Historically the Domain was gifted as a cricket ground. At the time this was established the weekend cricket game was also a significant community social event for the week, and therefore a place for community connection and engagement. The original intention for the Domain space therefore still holds strong.

The shape of the cricket pitch is still evident when looking at the cycle track and Domain from an aerial view. Council has made the decision this is to no longer be used as a cricket venue with safety of the public using the space being one of the deciding factors. To maximise the potential of the domain and allow space and opportunity to extend the use and facilities for all citizens, some of the existing designated open space could be utilised for other purposes. Based on the wishes of the community at large as expressed at public meetings and elsewhere, an open clear space equivalent to a rugby field plus dead ball zone would be sufficient to provide the open space required for all sporting, cultural and arts events. That allows for a BUFFER ZONE between the open space and MIXED USE ZONE (as per attached) which gives more options for the community to decide on use.

The Domain is recognised as being a district-wide asset, and the level of commitment of Council funding and resourcing of the site’s maintenance and enhancement should reflect that status. That said, it is recognised that the site’s true potential is unlikely to be realised from Council resourcing alone. Fortunately Kerikeri has a strong track record for ‘self-help’ as a means to achieving project goals and creating community assets.

In addition to material support for the project, Council is well placed to act as an enabler of community participation, ideally with a focus on facilitating pathways to a successful outcome for the site rather than adopting a directive or prescriptive stance which could discourage or disempower public participation.

It is our belief that a solid business argument can be created to underpin applications for assistance from, for example, the Provincial Growth Fund, and that the location, visibility, and purpose of the Domain offers a realistic alignment to family legacy or angel investment dollars.

There is also a wealth of human and material resources within our community that can be drawn on to support the implementation of a bold and transformative plan. There are already a number of community members volunteering time, specialist skills and expertise to enable a community driven vision. Who knows this place better, or are more likely to commit to its development, than those who live and work here?

Plans of this sort should ideally be created by ‘citizen experts’ from within our communities working alongside council, rather than contracted out to external agencies. This approach enables planning which is more relevant, innovative and sensitive to local needs and desires.

The term’ citizen expert’ does not only mean those with degrees or specific qualification. A citizen expert is someone who lives locally, represents a local demographic, has an essential knowledge or skill base and desires to collaborate with others to create local solutions for local problems.

It is a major oversight that the plan put forward does not address governance. We would like to see a Community Trust established with responsibility for oversight of the Domain’s ongoing development and management. Key stakeholders such as FNDC, mana whenua, the business community, should be represented on the trust, along with user groups and the community at large.

We would like to see a nomination process which establishes a board of trustees that is demographically relevant with specific expertise to support a collaborative community effort in the creation of an environment unique to Kerikeri’s identity and culture. Placing the community at the heart of a governance body will strengthen and facilitate ongoing commitment to the site’s enhancement.

Vision Kerikeri Alternate Plan

The current view of the Domain from Cobham Road - looking towards Kerikeri Road

The current degraded pavilion building as viewed from the park looking towards Cobham Road

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