Hands off reserve

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Lawyer warns council to turn down land grab

Don’t let a developer carve up a reserve, a Queenstown lawyer warns councillors.

The lawyer’s Bryce Whiting, the developer’s Buena Vista Ltd and the scene’s the popular One Mile recreation reserve.

The dirt in dispute is a mound up to six metres high on the reserve.

Buena Vista wants to bowl the mound to squeeze five more apartments into its planned 17-unit complex off Thompson Street above the reserve.

“If Queenstown Lakes District Council allows this, other developers with land adjoining reserves might want to follow suit,” Whiting says. He lives nearby.

In 2006, QLDC consented Buena Vista to excavate 59 cubic metres of reserve, lowering the mound by one metre.

That “small amount” was OK by Whiting but now, he says, Buena Vista plans to excavate its own site to get two more floors in – and wants to dig out five metres more of the mound to create views for those extra apartments.

The developer now wants to excavate 888cu m – about 150 truckloads of spoil – from the reserve.

“You’d have thought you’d do it the other way and ask QLDC for excavation rights before redesigning your building,” Whiting says.

Under the Reserves Act, he argues, QLDC can’t permit reserve land to be dug up “in response to a land owner’s request for better views or to enable him to or her to erect a larger building”.

“If that land could be sold to the developer for some profit to the council, it may not be a bad idea.

“But under the Reserves Act, there’s no power to sell the land or to enter a long-term lease which gives the developer exclusive rights.”

The issue was discussed this month at a QLDC committee meeting but deferred till Tuesday next week.
Council parks manager Gordon Bailey has recommended rejecting Buena Vista’s bid.

“I had initially supported the proposal,” Bailey told councillors, “… but upon reflection and revisiting the site, the philosophy of significantly altering public land for what is essentially private gain to this extent now sits uncomfortably.”

Meanwhile, resource consent for Buena Vista’s development is caught up in mediation between QLDC and the Environment Court.

Buena Vista is owned by Sydney couple Valerie and Laurent Rabot.