Court backs council refusal of Queenstown development

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A residential subdivision planned for Queenstown, which “clearly flies in the face” of the district plan, has been slammed by the Environment Court.

HIL Ltd directors William and Peter Hodgson, of Tucker Beach Rd, appealed a Queenstown Lakes District Council decision which rejected a five-lot subdivision on the open slopes of Ferry Hill.

The land was described as a “transition area”, between a visual amenity landscape (VAL) and an outstanding natural landscape (ONL), in the district plan.

At present, a corridor of development was in the Ferry Hill rural residential sub zone, comprising more than 30 properties and another 25 consented but unbuilt sites.

HIL’s site was at the end of that corridor of development.

While the applicant believes the site constitutes a “gap” in rural living zones around the lower slopes of Ferry Hill and its development will not change the nature of the landscape, the Environment Court disagreed.

In his written decision on August 10, released this week, Judge Brian Dwyer says the overall effects of the proposal are “more than minor and in many cases they are significant”, regardless of whether the site is considered to be in an ONL or VAL.

The proposal was inconsistent and contrary to the “overall thrust” of objectives and policies of the district plan.

Judge Dwyer says the slopes of Ferry Hill had “little capacity to absorb change by use of topography”.

While it is necessary to have regard to existing and consented environment, the proposal is not a minor extension of that and can not be readily absorbed into the environment.

HIL’s case is a “classic example” of a “resource consent creep”, where the presence of one consented development provided the basis for approval of further extension.

“We conclude that in this case existing and permitted development have reached such a level that they represent a threshold in capacity of Ferry Hill … to absorb further development without significant loss of its remaining natural character and landscape quality.”

The development will constitute “sprawl” of built development and he rejected the proposition existing and consented development supported ongoing expansion.

Judge Dwyer says there are “significant actual and potential adverse effects”, not just on the landscape but on neighbouring properties.

Council commissioners have declined the proposal, identifying four primary issues, including adverse effects on landscape character and rural amenity and whether the proposal is contrary to the objectives and policies of the district plan.

The Environment Court largely agrees with the council’s conclusion and says the application does not pass either of the required conditions.

Costs were reserved.

– Otago Daily Times