‘They have to follow the law’

Fighting the sale of east Auckland public reserves are, from left, local MPs Christopher Luxon and Simeon Brown, and Howick ward councillors Sharon Stewart and Paul Young. Times file photo Wayne Martin

Residents opposed to the sale of public reserves in east Auckland were urged to consider withdrawing submissions they’d made objecting to the move.

Community leaders say they’re extremely concerned about an email sent by Panuku Development Auckland to some of the people who made electronic submissions opposing the plan to sell the reserves.

Panuku is the organisation responsible for managing council buildings and land.

The council has publicly notified its intention to revoke the reserve status of public green spaces it owns at 9R Fortyfoot Lane, 111R Golfland Drive, and 76R Aberfeldy Avenue, and part of the site of a fuel station at 2R Ti Rakau Drive.

The parks’ proposed sale has been met with fierce resistance from local residents, many of whom made postal or electronic submissions opposing the move.

Frank Lombard lives adjacent to the reserve in Fortyfoot Lane.

He’s one of numerous Sunnyhills residents fighting the council’s plan to sell their popular neighbourhood park.

Lombard says he was shocked to hear that another resident, who made an electronic submission in opposition to the move, received an email from Panuku asking if they wanted to withdraw it.

“I think the council is trying to limit the number of submissions it receives,” Lombard says.

“The council should be running a democratic process.

“They asked for feedback and people have the right to submit.”

The email from Panuku thanks people for their submission and explains why the council wishes to sell the properties.

Toward the end it says: “I hope that you may reconsider your objection in light of this information.

“If you would like to withdraw your objection, please let me know.”

Howick ward councillor Sharon Stewart has written to council chief executive Jim Stabback to express her “extreme concern” with the email.

She told Stabback the community is going through a submission process, “which is an important part of our democratic system”.

“I am not sure what the legality of this is as I have been involved in submissions for over 23 years and have never seen anything like this before.”

Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown and Botany MP Christopher Luxon have written to Stabback, mayor Phil Goff, and Panuku chief executive David Rankin about the email.

Brown describes the situation as “an absolute shocker”.

“It completely undermines the process,” he told the Times.

“People thought the council was engaging in the process in good faith and they’ve potentially opened themselves up for a challenge.

“We’ve got a legal process and they have to follow it to the letter of the law.”

Panuku chief executive David Rankin says an email “that should not have been sent” was sent to 17 submitters.

“It was an honest mistake by a member of the team, well intentioned without realising how it could be misinterpreted.

“We apologise for this and we are working with submitters to clarify this.”

Rankin says no submissions have been withdrawn and the email address the email to submitters was sent from is administered by a “team” at Panuku.

“The initial email sent to the 17 submitters was not approved by a senior member of staff.

“The organisation takes responsibility for this, and we are reviewing our processes internally to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

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