Court stoush over fast-track failure


Queenstown’s council is being dragged to the High Court over a rejected development near Arrowtown.

A 150-section special housing area (SHA) proposal by Ayrburn Farm Developments Ltd, which attracted strong public criticism, was given the heave-ho by council last June.

Now the firm - associated with developers Chris and Michaela Meehan - has applied for a judicial review, claiming council “negligence” and “errors of law”.

Ironically, last month the developers lodged plans for a retirement village on the same site, which will be considered at a special council meeting next week.

Court documents, dated September last year, show Ayrburn claims the council prioritised protection of the existing urban growth boundary over creating affordable housing.

Papers filed by Ayrburn lawyer Maree Baker-Galloway say: “The decision reflected recommendations by Queenstown council staff which negated expressions of interest [EOIs] relating to the Arrowtown area - including the Ayrburn Farm proposal.”

That’s a total disregard, apparently, of the council’s responsibilities under special housing laws and an accord signed with the government to improve housing affordability in the district.

The developer also criticised council’s communication.

“At least 67 written responses were received, of which at least 12 directly referred to the Ayrburn Farm proposal, raising a range of issues in opposition. A copy of this document was not provided to Ayrburn prior to the meeting,” the report says.

Ayrburn says the council was aware developers would submit sophisticated and costly EOIs - in this case to the tune of $380,000.

Ayrburn is seeking a declaration from council that it committed a “tortious breach of its duty” when assessing its EOI.

It is also requesting the council picks up the tab for any associated costs.

The retirement village application proposes to build 201 homes, as well as care and recreational facilities, next to Millbrook Resort.

Bridesdale Farm is Queenstown’s only approved SHA.