Battle royal

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64 Not-In-My-Backyard objectors fight low-cost development at Lake Hayes Estate.

It’s probably Queenstown’s most successful subdivision yet it’s been dogged by controversy from the get-go to the present day.

With about 95 per cent of Lake Hayes Estate completed and more than 400 houses built, developer Mike Coburn has residents riled over plans for a 12-unit high-density complex off the subdivision’s entranceway.

By last month’s planning application deadline, 64 submissions opposed Lake Hayes Estate Ltd plans.

Objectors particularly cite traffic safety, plus unsuitability of high-density housing in the area – they also allege they were originally told the land in question would be kept in native vegetation.

Yet there’s a big query over whether residents can legally object – because of restrictive covenants signed with the developer when sites were first sold.

Coburn might sound like a lone voice these days but he also recalls being in a minority when the subdivision was first proposed.

Just about everyone pooh-poohed Lake Hayes Estate, says Coburn, who originally had the late Otago property magnate Howard Paterson as silent partner.

“I talked to a lot of people who thought we were mad.”

He recalls the principal of a national real estate firm saying it wouldn’t work, while the Wakatipu Environmental Society was also rigidly opposed.

Coburn’s main ally, local surveyor Neil McDonald, says Lake Hayes Estate took 13 years to get zoning approval – and when granted in 2001, immediate neighbours were angry they’d not been consulted.

“Councillors didn’t think there was a need at the time for that level of expansion in Queenstown,” McDonald says.

Coburn thought otherwise: “We believed there was a need for land and houses for people to live and work here so Queenstown could grow.”

But even he was caught unawares when the subdivision launched its sales campaign in July 2002.

“We proposed to sell 50 lots at first but had to call a halt at 260 because it was beyond our ability to produce them fast enough.”

The lowest section price was $77,000 and the average was $100,000.

McDonald: “The agents were recommending a much higher price.”

But the developers could afford to keep prices down because subdivision meant the land didn’t owe them much, McDonald says.

“Pretty much without exception, people who purchased achieved capital gain from day one,” Coburn says.

He thinks no more than 10-12 per cent of sections were bought by speculators.

To date, the dearest section resale has been $310,000 and the record house price is understood to be $760,000.
Coburn maintains its low cost of entry made Lake Hayes Estate take off.

“I’m wishing to go back to that principle for the next generation of first-time owners.”

He’s saying one of his proposed three-bedroom Waterfall Terrace units would be priced under $400,000.

Separately, he’s seeking consent for 17 sections off Rere Road that he is contemplating selling at less than market prices.

Meantime, another active developer at Lake Hayes Estate will be the Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust, which has bought a block zoned for 42 units and a convenience store and cafe/bar.

Kevin Burdon, chairman of the Lake Hayes Estate Community Association, notes the subdivision “has grown faster than most people ever thought it would”.

“I don’t think anybody ever imagined there were going to be 400 houses here after six years.”