This is what we stand for: The following was originally contained in a newsletter sent to all the membership and published in the Russell Lights seeking comment. These comments have subsequently been incorporated into this article.
There are a number of different views about what the future should be for Russell; however there also appear to be some commonly shared aspirations. We all wish to see the Township grow and prosper, but in what direction? If Russell truly is an icon, then exactly what is it that makes it unique for NZ? Is it something more than just a quaint village with "attitude"? Some of the terms used in the Russell 2000 visioning process, which the RPS supported, were:
- Village atmosphere
- Worked in lived in environment
- Pedestrian scale
- Natural surrounds
- Friendly character
- Maritime influence
- Sense of place
- Laid-back living
- Our heritage
What does this all mean (and what doesn't it mean) for the future of Russell?
For a start, if Russell is to continue as a village, then it must grow within clear boundaries, while protecting its important setting of undeveloped headlands and backdrop. The original layout or town plan for the area is still largely intact and this should be preserved. The small scale of individual buildings within the village also needs to be fostered and therefore growth should be directed at the smaller end of the scale while avoiding large new developments such as condos, hotels, motels, resorts, chain restaurants, high rise, comprehensive designs employing identical "cookie cutter" buildings and self contained "theme" complexes. The remaining historic buildings can only be appreciated and interpreted if these are contained within an appropriate landscape setting.
Growth in employment should continue to be provided for through mixed uses, home-based work, cottage industries, arts & crafts, bed & breakfast establishments and small scale tourist industries. Tourism should be based around the use of this low key accommodation, occurring mainly as a pedestrian activity that relies primarily upon the special character and historic attractions of the area.
The landscape of the area should be protected and enhanced by encouraging more tree planting, preserving open spaces and maintaining key sight corridors. The narrow, tree lined streets and grassed berms with water tables should be retained and the soft edges maintained regularly. Where concrete is used for sidewalks it should be tinted to reduce its visual impact.
One particular building design or style should not be enforced, but instead people should be encouraged to use timber construction and cladding, using pitched roofs and traditional soft elements where practicable while avoiding discordant mono-cladding and terracotta colours. Picket fences and minimal setbacks are appropriate; however retention of open space and gardens is also important.
Alterations to buildings in the historic precincts do need to be more tightly controlled in order to protect the historic character of the Township. Linkages with the wharf and beach can be improved and the pohutukawa trees safeguarded. Public works should be appropriate to a village environment and things like sign posting and street furniture should be unobtrusive. Greater use can be made of carefully designed and sited historic walk plaques and other information.
The balance of Russell Peninsula should continue to serve as a rural hinterland to the Township, while avoiding a ribbon of urban/commercial development extending all the way to Okiato. Most importantly, because Russell is unique for both its past history and its present character, we must each accept responsibility for protecting this heritage for our grandchildren in the face of perverse economic incentives that often seem intent on destroying it.
What are your views on the matter? The Russell Protection Society would like to hear your ideas about how you and your grandchildren would like see Russell in the future.