Powerless Paradise

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A $12 million slice of Paradise near Glenorchy is probably “one of the greatest [development] risks to a landscape in the district”.

So says Queenstown Lakes District Council senior policy boffin Daniel Wells in a new report out last week on
development blocks in the “rural visitor zone”.

In addition to the 46-hectare Arcadia site near Paradise, Wells – after consulting planners from regulator Lakes Environmental – also scrutinises other blocks at Walter and Cecil Peaks, Arthurs Point and Glenorchy’s Blanket Bay.

Change is in the air.

There are “some concerns with the adequacy of [planning control] provisions” in the rural-visitor zone, Wells says, suggesting “when this part of the [district] plan is reviewed that a number of comprehensive changes should be considered”.

Of the five Wakatipu blocks, Arcadia tops Wells’s warning chart of “scale of negative effects that might occur if developed”.

He warns a staggering 3954 dwellings could be built on Arcadia’s 46ha.

Walter Peak could take 6751 dwellings, Cecil Peak 172, Arthurs Point 749 and Blanket Bay 900.

QLDC’s boffin is quick to add a rider: “These are quite spectacular (if not fanciful) figures.”

Dwelling numbers are accurate in “the amount of development they enable [but] nobody would realistically consider that all of this capacity is about to be realised – or even a significant portion of it”.

And Wells is right.

Arcadia has been listed on one national real estate website for three years this month – with no takers.

At $12m plus GST, that’s perhaps not surprising – though the listing has had 552 hits. Despite the listing saying the “untouched and pristine” Arcadia’s rural visitor zoning creates “numerous development possibilities”, Wells rates the chance of negative development there as only moderate.

“But the district plan can be expected to last at least 10 years, so there is merit in being risk-averse in managing potential development outcomes in some of these areas.

“There is the possibility of considerable damage to important landscapes…even with a limited amount of development.”

At Arcadia – with its 740 metres of Diamond Lake foreshore – “the effect on landscape values could be significant”, Wells says.

Wells says he’s not suggesting long-time Arcadia owner Jim Veint – or even any future owner – might develop in “significantly detracting” ways.

In fact, when Veint made his successful pitch for rural visitor zoning some years ago, he “signalled his intent that
development should be of a very high quality and appearance”.

But if anyone ever wants to do a crass carve-up at Arcadia, present zoning rules are almost powerless to prevent them, Wells says.