Housing battle lines drawn


A stoush is brewing in the Wakatipu over so-called special housing areas.

On one side is the Queenstown Lakes District Council, which, under a housing accord signed with the government and the Special Housing Areas Act, isn’t required to consult with the community.

On the other are Arrowtown representatives who say that flies in the face of the council’s policy, which states it will ”engage with the community” on potential developments.

QLDC planning and development general manager Marc Bretherton confirms there is no legal requirement for public consultation.

However, the council has sought ”feedback” – at the request of mayor Vanessa van Uden – on the various expressions of interest posted on the council’s website last week.

Van Uden says there will be no ”formal consultation process”, but anyone can provide feedback to councillors ahead of the next council meeting on May 28, when the item will be discussed.

While feedback will be considered by councillors, ”this is not a poll about how many people say yes and how many people say no”, Ms van Uden says.

But Arrowtown Village Association acting chairman Wayne Hulls says seeking feedback is not sufficient community engagement.

“That’s what we’re bitching about.”

“There hasn’t been any consulting, there hasn’t been any community engagement - a thing saying ‘tell us what you think’ is not community engagement.

“We want to be able to talk to them about it and we’ve got to do it before they approve, or don’t approve, these damned areas, and that’s the end of the month.”

The association has sent two letters to van Uden, asking for a ”public meeting” to discuss the SHA proposals around Arrowtown.

Ms van Uden said that will not happen.

“They [public meetings] are not usually people coming to listen or be informed. They’re usually overtaken by one or two who have a very strong point to make.

“We have provided a way for people to have their say … I don’t see the value in having a public meeting.”

Bretherton says only immediately adjoining landowners will be notified of any approved development.

Asked if there is any way for others to appeal, or object to, any such consent application, Mr Bretherton responds: “No.

“It’s a complex area, no doubt about that, and it’s also uncharted territory for this council and for various other territorial authorities around the country and it is a departure from processes that are reasonably well known - the RMA processes.

“But, it is an accord that the councillors signed up to in October last year.

“What we’re seeing now is the implementation of what was inherent in that accord document.”

Referring to four applications made for land around Arrowtown, outside the town’s urban growth boundary, Bretherton says the “planning context” can be considered in any decision made by councillors.

Van Uden says the Arrowtown boundary didn’t prohibit development but it does make it a higher hurdle for consent applicants.

Hulls says the purpose of the boundary is to “stop this damn urban sprawl” and the association is against SHAs being “around Arrowtown”.

He says that’s “not a nimby thing”, but because of the time, expense and effort the council went to to establish the urban growth boundary around the village.

“Now, if they’re suddenly saying ‘We’re forgetting those, we’re going to let these people put subdivisions on the boundaries’ … that’s just so inconsistent.

“It makes sense to put it on the edge of somewhere like Lake Hayes [Estate]  the Bridesdale one is sort of logical.

“It’s just making Lake Hayes [Estate] a bit bigger; there’s an obvious boundary there of the river, it’s not visible from anywhere, it’s hidden away and that’s why we have boundaries in Arrowtown, is to try and stop this damn urban sprawl, stretching it all over the rural area.”

One application, for 150 homes at Ayrburn Farm, near Arrowtown, says the land is one of the only flat parcels of fully serviced, sun-filled land in the Queenstown Basin where proposed housing can not be seen from the surrounding roads.

However, Hulls says Ayrburn is “in the middle of rural land which has been battled forever to try and stop” residential development.

“They’ve got neighbours there that think they’ve got a rural area and all of a sudden they’re going to have a whole lot of houses next door.”

Otago Daily Times