Arrowtown is emerging as a furious battleground over fast-tracked housing plans.
Last week, Queenstown’s council publicly released 13 applications for so-called “special housing areas” (SHAs) – developments which, if approved by Housing Minister Nick Smith, will be fast-tracked to add much-needed housing to one of the country’s fastest-growing areas.
Of the more than 1000 houses proposed, almost a quarter are earmarked for the Arrowtown area in four separate subdivisions, including a 150-house development at Ayrburn Farm, at Speargrass Flat.
Opposition has been staunch and immediate.
Already, the Arrowtown Village Association has kicked up a fuss over the lack of consultation and an apparent disregard of previous decisions, including the town’s urban-growth boundary.
Dame Elizabeth Hanan has added her voice to opposition.
In a letter to the Otago Daily Times she says Arrowtown’s infrastructure was already at capacity, adding: “Yet we now have opportunists trying to get on the bandwagon of so-called ‘affordable housing’.”
Ayrburn, which is zoned “rural general”, is being touted as flat parcels of fully serviced, sun-filled land which cannot be seen from the road.
Peter Beadle, one of the country’s leading landscape painters, lives across the fence from the proposed Ayrburn development.
He says such an intensive development was inappropriate for what was now a farm paddock.
“This is pastoral farming land – not a suburb of Arrowtown, Frankton or Queenstown. It’s a special and visually magnificent location which must stay in place.”
His concerns included the strain on Lake Hayes’ already stretched water supply, the possible use of Mill Creek, well known for trout spawning, as a stormwater drain and the fact part of Ayrburn Farm was what he called a “flood plain”.
Beadle says the district’s infrastructure – including roads, water and sewerage – was not coping with the influx of people and the council’s attempt to speed up house building might make things worse.
According to the 2013 census, 28,224 people usually live in the Queenstown-Lakes district – a 22.9 per cent increase since the 2006 census.
Ayrburn’s developers have already got offside with others in the community.
Its SHA application referred to an “Arrowtown museum exhibition display”.
However, Lakes District Museum director David Clarke, who lives near the development, says it was news to him and he has asked for a retraction.
Arrowtown School principal Chris Bryant says the school has a “finite capacity” for growth of its roll, but it was up to the Ministry of Education to plan for any population growth.
Bryant was not aware of any consultation with the school by SHA applicants.
Development company Ayrburn Farm Developments is associated with Queenstown developers Chris and Michaela Meehan, who are also behind Wanaka’s Northlake subdivision and the Bridesdale Farm and Lake’s Edge developments in Queenstown.
The Meehans could not be reached for comment yesterday.
QLDC planning manager Marc Bretherton says the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Act did not require or otherwise contemplate consultation.
He says there were no confirmed SHAs in the district yet. The council had only recommended one, Bridesdale Farm, to the minister.
If SHA status was conferred, a resource consent was required. Depending on the effects, this “can” be notified to adjoining neighbours, he says.