Environment Waikato has granted consents to upgrade the Raglan Recreation Centre near a wetland in the Aroaro Bay area.
The Centre is planning a staged upgrade to existing reserve facilities, with a combined tennis and netball area, new car parking and up to three new buildings. Existing facilities include rugby fields, clubrooms and changing sheds. The application attracted 20 submissions.
The joint hearing committee heard that the existing rugby facilities were inadequate, with 50 year old changing sheds and drainage issues affecting use of the grounds. To accommodate additional facilities and car parking, some infilling of the Aroaro Bay wetland would be required and existing stormwater systems upgraded.
The wetland was considered to have high ecological value, based on the lack of estuarine saltmarsh wetland within the Raglan Ecological District and the presence of a small but functioning saltmarsh wetland area.
Plant pests currently posed a threat to the wetland’s sustainability, and lack of regular tidal inundation was due to a flap-gate at the wetland outlet beneath the Wallis Street causeway. More regular and constant tidal inundation would improve the condition of the wetland by re-creating a more natural saltmarsh wetland.
The developments would result in the loss of good quality wetland area. To compensate the District Council intended to rehabilitate a significant portion of the remaining wetland, removing existing weeds from degraded portions of the wetland, lowering the ground level in dry areas to allow water into degraded areas and replanting with native species.
Club representatives said there were no facilities big enough to accommodate large events, and environmental enhancement of the wetland would not occur without the proposal.
Submitters were concerned about the importance of the wetland area to the overall ecosystem within the Whaingaroa Harbour. One said the time period for rehabilitation was too long and requested perimeter planting to provide an adjacent greenbelt and reduce weeds. The clubrooms could be relocated and the wetland could become an educational resource. The benefits provided by the facility should not be at the expense of the environment.
The Committee said the evidence clearly demonstrated the need for an upgrade to services for sporting codes in Raglan, which had significant support. It was satisfied that the applicant had adequately considered options and actively worked with the Community to identify and progress the preferred option.
Management of the drains was crucial to avoid flooding and a key component would be monitoring rehabilitation. The scheme should reduce noxious weeds and provide a managed drainage scheme for the Aroaro Bay catchment.
Significantly improving the condition of the remaining wetland and protection from flooding for surrounding houses would promote sustainable management of the community and surrounding area, and overall reasonable public access would be maintained and enhanced.
The small encroachment within the wetland would be sufficiently offset by rehabilitation of a large part of the remaining wetland, and effects from diversion and discharge of stormwater would be no more than minor, it said.