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Walkway’s future complicated by property handover

Flagstaff Team

Paul Firth in front of the cottage purchased in the 1940s by his father, portrait photographer Clifton Firth

The future of part of the landmark Takapuna-Milford walkway is uncertain following the death of a resident who allowed walkers to detour through his land.

After a wooden bridge near Black Rock collapsed in 2011, Paul Firth allowed walkers to pass through his garden to continue around the coast.

Long-running negotiations with Auckland Council over the possible council acquisition of his Kitchener Rd property remained unresolved when he died last month.

The Observer understands the house has been left in the hands of more than one owner, which could complicate attempts to bring it into public ownership.

But Devonport-Takapuna Local Board chair Ruth Jackson wants options pursued to secure the future of a continuous Takapuna to Milford walkway.

“When the time is right”, the local board would be happy to meet the beneficiaries of Firth’s will to discuss options, Jackson said.

“Paul’s death is incredibly sad – he was a very nice man,” she said. “It was a lot more than him letting people walk across the property. He loved meeting and talking to everyone. It was a lovely two-way relationship with the community.”

Previous board chair Aidan Bennett and then-deputy George Wood promoted a board motion last December to put money from any sale of the former Takapuna Library at No 2 The Strand towards purchasing the Firth property to use as a writers’ retreat.

After a review, Auckland Council decided in late May that the heritage-listed former-library property should be disposed of. Jackson, while remaining adamantly opposed to 2 The Strand’s sale, said if it was sold, she would be open to the money being used to secure the coastal walkway.

How this might happen was, however, along way down the track.

Whether the council or the wider community would want public money spent on a writers’ retreat, which would need to be renovated and maintained, was another issue, Jackson said.

Wood, who attended the “lovely service” held for Firth at the Officer’s Mess at Narrow Neck on Monday, 28 June, said in time he would like to see the board advocate for discussions. “It would be a matter for council officials to talk to his representatives.”

Firth was unmarried. A sister, with whom he inherited the family home, died previously.

Wood said Firth had told him he wanted to see the track stay open.

Putting 2 The Strand money towards this stacked up, Wood said. “I’m hopeful that the council will be able to get it [the fate of the track] in some sense of order.”

A number of other sections of the walkway are also across private land. Some of the owners have riparian rights to the sea. However, no other property is walked over in quite the way the Firth property is.

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