By Keri Welham, in Tauranga
Some Mount Maunganui residents have launched a rebellion against Tauranga City Council over a controversial $2.5 million park.
The 55 parking spaces that made up the Phoenix Carpark on Maunganui Rd were concreted over to create what the council calls an open, urban space. Locals are upset about the new park's grey colour scheme, summer skateboarding ban, lengthy Māori name, and the loss of those 55 downtown parking spaces.
They said Te Papa o Ngā Manu Porotakataka was a costly disappointment which showed the council had no respect for Mount Maunganui's beachside character.
At a community meeting this week, around 100 locals decided to reinstate the Mount Maunganui Ratepayers Association to fight what they see as the council's Tauranga-centric agenda.
Paul Hickson holidayed in Mount Maunganui as a boy and has been a ratepayer in the resort town since the 1970s. He's dismayed by the urban development, which he believes is at odds with the area's surf town culture.
He blamed Tauranga City Council, which he said was imposing its "CBD, inland city" aesthetic on Mount Maunganui.
Long-time Mount resident Michael O'Neill said the Ratepayers' Association would be a voice for the Mount in this year's local body elections.
"It's the small things that start the big things. So, we've started with something small here, a small issue, but there's a lot of big issues that will face the Mount as we move forward - and a lot of that is about changing the Mount."
Local businessman Zak Lassey said the park is a "very disappointing result".
"No-one asked for this. It's just a big grey space and what the hell do you use that for except skateboarding?"
Many have mistaken the space for a skatepark but, over the New Year break, the council spent $1500 on security guards to keep skateboarders out. It has since decided skaters would be welcome as long as they behaved.
The park's name - Te Papa o Ngā Manu Porotakataka - was gifted by local iwi to reference the seabirds which circle above nearby fishing grounds.
During consultation, there was opposition to the name and many other aspects of the development.
Mr O'Neill said the council's idea of consultation is a farce.
He said the council told people it planned to create the park, asked for opinions, was met with significant opposition, and still went ahead with its planned park.
The development opened, unfinished, in December. Work resumed and the finished park should open this month. Once complete, it will feature more trees, more grass, a water feature and security cameras.
Fifty-seven parking spaces in more distant parts of the Mount Maunganui shopping district.
Mount resident Graham Brighting said he would rate the development once he sees the final result, but he did expect more green space.
Tauranga City Council's city transformation manager Jaine Lovell-Gadd said the area was never intended to be a green space.
But she said despite three years of consultation, that was what locals were expecting.
The park was intended to be used similarly to big-city urban spaces, such as Aotea Square in Auckland.
She hoped the public would consider the park a place where they could hold events.
"I think it really will show itself to be a good place, a good space, and that might take some time."