The Society is probably best known for the stand that it takes on a number of resource management issues, notably the Russell Sewerage Scheme. However, this only represents a relatively small part of our activities. There are a number of issues, processes and bits of legislation that serve to shape the future of our historic Township. It may be helpful to list these and to then describe how the Russell Protection Society is involved.
The Resource Management Act is one of the most important pieces of legislation in determining how the physical and social environment of an area, and its supporting amenities, develop over time. This legislation requires every city, district and regional council to develop plans and policies that establish the rules by which these areas grow or change. For this reason, the RPS has been directly involved in the process of ensuring that the Far North District Plan and the Northland Regional Coastal Policy give proper recognition and support to protecting those historic, cultural and environmental values that make Russell such a unique place. The district plan now provides for historic precincts and a special zone for the balance of the Township, thereby preserving much of the original town plan for the area while safeguarding the current character of Russell as a quiet yet colourful village.
Yet the district plan is only effective if it is administered properly and hence the Society has been involved in making a number of submissions to resource consent applications where these pose a threat to the future of the Township. We have led the charge in ensuring that the Russell Sewerage Scheme is appropriate, environmentally sound and affordable. There are also a number of proposed subdivisions in and around Russell that pose a direct threat to the Township's sense of containment and it's greenbelt, and therefore we have become involved in appeals to the Environment Court as required. A notable success, led by Martin Leiding of the Society, has been our support to the ratepayers group across in Paihia in their appeal against a 15 storey high rise apartment building.
The Society was instrumental in helping to set up the Russell Executive Committee so that all the organisations in Russell can share information and hopefully speak with one voice. An example of this cooperation was a successful joint submission between the Society and the Russell Business Association on the future of the Russell Wharf and it's upgrading. A member of our Society, Doug Owens, organises meetings of the Executive and has taken the lead in liaising with the Far North District Council on sewerage and other issues.
An important example of the Society's leadership has been our submissions on the FNDC Long Term Council Community Plan and Annual Plans under the Local Government Act, which were essentially adopted by the other groups in Russell. There are a number of key issues relating to a possible bridge across from Opua, a community reticulated water supply, connection to a Bay of Islands-wide sewerage scheme, and future intensification of the whole Russell Peninsula where the Society has taken the lead in representing the community's interests. We have also represented the community in addressing sedimentation and pollution of shellfish beds with the Northland Regional Council, as well as local marine farming and marina development issues.
Where this has proved necessary, the Society has hired heritage architects and planners to run workshops for Counselors and the public, as well as providing evidence before courts and tribunals. While the iconic heritage value of Russell township may be taken for granted by some, for others there is confusion about what is so special about the place and it has been helpful to share information from the experts. We have also been actively involved in helping to plan for the tourism industry in the area and provided a major input into the "Tourism in Northland" long-term strategy document by carefully identifying the key role that Russell can play. In order to protect and support the environment that attracts tourists to the area, the Society has participated directly in preparing Catchment Management Plans for Central Russell and Matauwhi Bay in order to help avoid flooding, as well as ensuring that the groundwater management plans for the area are sustainable.
The centre of attraction for Russell is Cass Street and The Strand. A member of the Society and well known architect/landscape architect, Harry Turbott, has redesigned Cass Street to make it a much more pleasant area, with seating, landscape planting and carefully located car parking. The next step of the project will be to rationalise and improve linkages between The Strand, Cass Street, the wharf and Kororareka Beach. The Society is also in the process of providing tastefully designed public seating at Long Beach.
The aims and objectives of the Russell Protection Society are necessarily fairly general. There is a need to sometimes react to issues that threaten the interests of the Russell community, as we did when we initiated an investigation by the Auditor General into the performance of the previous Far North District Council. It is also important to be proactive and therefore we have led discussions on the future of Russell and have lent support to other organisations through donations of money and other contributions. The Society usually presents an annual award to a person or organisation that is distinguished by the contribution they make to safeguarding Russell's unique heritage.
The Society is as strong as its membership and it is pleasing to see our membership steadily growing. It is a democratic organization that holds public meetings where open debate and consensus building are encouraged. We are also lucky to have a very capable executive committee where we can call upon the talents of experts in a number of fields. Russell is a very special place and the Society plays an important role in helping safeguard this for future generations to enjoy.