Country clamps coming

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QLDC planning boffin poses new rules for rural lifestyle blocks

Rural life in the Wakatipu may never be the same again.

A planning boffin at Queenstown Lakes District Council talks about major clamps on rural development in a report earlier this month.

“There are some concerns raised as to the number of [rural] dwellings that have been consented … and the cumulative effect this may be having on the landscape,” senior policy analyst Daniel Wells warns.

Wells asked QLDC’s strategy committee to consider various “potentially low-cost” changes to raise the bar on rural development.

His proposals may be “low-cost” for QLDC but developers or private homeowners hoping to put down roots in the rural Wakatipu may pay dearly.

For example, “where screening is an essential part of the [consent] approval, then construction [might not be permitted to] proceed until the screening is fully established”, Wells suggests.

Presumably, a landowner would then have to hold bare dirt – paying rates on it – for perhaps years until screenings mature and home building can begin.

The planner also poses the idea of a new rule requiring a full house design to be submitted at the same time as a building-platform application.

But if the building platform is altered in the consent process, the accompanying house design might also need major changes – meaning increased architect fees.

Wells also ponders whether “self-sustaining power generation such as solar panels and wind turbines are adequately provided for” and hints at greater controls on “aircraft and helicopter sites”.

Those hoping for a Wakatipu rural lifestyle will be gnashing their teeth – some estimates already put countryside subdivision consent costs at $58,000.

But Wells does have a point. Rural blocks mushroomed far more than other developments during the 1996-2006 period, his report shows.

Planning breaches may also have gone unchecked, with Wells recording “a failure of the zoning regime to be enforced as envisaged”.

Chewing over his 90-page report, QLDC’s strategy committee has authorised Wells to come back with an even more detailed study.