Queenstown’s first fast-tracked subdivision – 134 new homes on a 32ha block – has been given the tentative go-ahead in a precedent-setting decision.
But council-appointed commissioners have made significant changes for Bridesdale Farm, including deleting 11 proposed house sites nearest the Kawarau River, reconfiguring some plots next to existing properties and shrinking plans for garden allotments.
In the interim decision, which sets the bar for other such developments in the Wakatipu Basin, the commissioners cite concerns over landscape protection, the effect on neighbours, and flooding for making the changes.
Bridesdale Farm – to be built on mainly farmland bordering Lake Hayes Estate – is the first Queenstown development to qualify as a so-called special housing area.
The red-tape-cutting status is covered by legislation and designed to increase the supply of land and houses in parts of New Zealand with housing affordability problems.
Developments have to be approved by the Building and Housing Minister and enjoy a streamlined consenting process and less public involvement.
There is no right of appeal to the Environment Court.
Speaking on behalf of Bridesdale Farm Developments Ltd, lawyer Warwick Goldsmith said in a statement the company is pleased most of the proposed development had been approved.
“The decision raises some minor clarification issues which do not cause a problem and which will be addressed promptly.
“Bridesdale looks forward to a final decision issuing so that subdivision works can commence in the very near future.”
The Bridesdale proposal was for 145 new houses, a central cafe and market square on an upper terrace – and garden allotments on a lower area near the Kawarau River.
Panel chairman Denis Nugent, on behalf of commissioners Mel Gazzard and David Mead, said in the decision that while the development extends into an existing rural area, it is neither “sporadic nor sprawling”.
Expectations the site would remain rural land was “open to question”, the decision says, given its gentle topography and the pattern of nearby development.
The Resource Management Act does not require all private views be maintained, the commissioners note.
However, the 11 deleted sites intrude into an area of outstanding natural landscape (ONL).
“We are concerned that such a disruption to the ONL boundary would undermine its integrity in this area, leading to potential adverse cumulative landscape effects off this site.”
Bridesdale’s marketing pitch was for buyers to spend “around $450,000” to build a new three-bedroom house – achieved by, among other factors, small sections and restricted design options.
In his evidence at the hearing, project developer Chris Meehan warned “any development of Bridesdale Farm which resulted in a significantly reduced development yield would not result in delivery of housing product to the market at target levels”.
A flood risk assessment said a lower terrace earmarked for garden allotments would be “covered in 2-3m of water” in a 1-in-100-year flood.
The commissioners say: “We consider the flood risk requires minimising the scale of buildings in this area.”
The allotments have also been reduced to 50sq m, from 100sq m or 120sq m.
The commissioners want a management arrangement introduced for the garden allotments and common areas.
They have also mandated footpaths be built on both sides of four roads, instead of just one.
A proposal to turn heritage-listed Bridesdale Cottage into a cafe will need a separate consent.
The decision follows public hearings held over four days in October, November and December.
The commissioners will issue a final decision on the plan when they receive amended plans and conditions from the developer.
Otago Daily Times