Waterfall Park plans hosed

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Environmental campaigners have claimed it’s a “farce” for developers behind a planned 380-room hotel to suggest the project definitely won’t further degrade nearby Mill Creek and Lake Hayes.

Commissioners put Waterfall Park Developments Ltd’s plans for the Waterfall Park complex, near Arrowtown, under the microscope at a resource consent hearing in Queenstown this week.

The controversial plans were opposed by residents and the Friends of Lake Hayes Society, which argues the development could negatively affect water quality in the bodies of water.

Society member Kathleen O’Sullivan told commissioners “it’s a bit of a farce” to suggest with any certainty the development will not lead to a breach of water quality standards as there was no strong scientific evidence to support this.

Queenstown architect John Blair, who lives near the planned hotel site, says it’s a “disruptive and inappropriate proposal”, claiming it would cause increased traffic and a loss of visual amenity.

“I have a knowledge and passion for retaining what cannot be recovered once it has been exploited. Things should be changed for the better, not the worse.”

Society secretary Richard Bowman says people already see “changes in the lake every day”, before the development has even began.

The society argues heavy rain events can also cause a huge rise in contaminants entering the water.

Otago Regional Council approved the developer’s proposed work on Mill Creek tributary last September, which includes building bridges, weirs and culverts in and over the creek. Commissioners also approved the developer’s plans for an access road to the hotel site, but the decision remains subject to Environment Court approval.

As well as the hotel project, the company wants Ayrburn Farm land rezoned, to allow a 200-unit residential development.

The developer maintains the rewards of the project far outweigh the short-term risk of contaminants entering the bodies of water.

Developer Chris Meehan says environmental benefits include stock exclusion and ceasing the use of farming fertilisers affecting Mill Creek, resulting in fewer contaminants entering the creek and lake.

The company’s carried out extensive vegetation clearance, planting about 17,000 trees and shrubs, and has plans for further revegetation, installing weirs and developing a koaro habitat plan.

joshua.walton@scene.co.nz