More than a year after its concept plan was adopted, confusion and disappointment still surround the proposed changes to Te Awamutu’s War Memorial Park.
To “remind people of the park’s original purpose”, signs were placed near the park’s “Contact” bridge by members of the Te Awamutu War Memorial Maintenance Committee on Friday.
“The park was specifically built as a memorial park. The council needs to come to the conclusion that they’ve made a mistake and that the park itself is the memorial,” said committee member Marcus Dawson.
In the council’s concept plans, which were formally adopted in June last year, one of the proposed changes is to “strengthen connections to the Mangaohoi and Mangapiko Streams through storytelling signage.”
Dawson claims that this is a fundamental misunderstanding of the park’s memorial purpose. He says the entirety of the park is a World War II memorial, and that any changes that are made to it must respect that.
“The memorial sentiment of that post World War II community should not be lost,” he said.
Dawson suggests that the park should be better maintained rather than altered. He has a website dedicated to the history of the park and is developing an alternative concept plan for it.
Sally Sheedy, group manager of Customer and Community Services, said the council’s concept plans aim to improve the park, while still respecting its memorial purpose.
“While we understand their concerns, the actual development of the plan itself helps to enhance and cherish the war memorial aspects of the park, while also providing opportunities for greater use of the park,” said Sheedy.
“The park itself was a significant site for local mana whenua. They have history and stories to tell on this site as well, they are a key part of our community and are a key stakeholder. So, through the concept plan, telling their stories and their connections is part of that.”
She said that because of community feedback, the final concept plan went through a near-total transformation before it was adopted last year.
“All we are trying to do is enhance something that was developed in the fifties, now, and into the future as well.”
The Te Awamutu Community Board also discussed the park’s concept plan at length during their monthly meeting last week.
Community Services manager Brad Ward provided the board with an update of the plans’ progress.
He said that planning was underway to extend the park’s stone wall, as well as the design of detailed entryways and the development of vegetation management and heritage plans.
Following his update, chair Angela Holt and board member Jill Taylor said it was the first time that they had seen some of the council’s plans.
“I have checked with my fellow community board members… at no time until today was the community board privy to what was in this document,” said Holt.
The community board approved a draft of the concept plan in March 2021, before it was formally adopted by council, and the plans have been publicly available online since.