After a three-year battle, a controversial Arrowtown boardwalk is finally being dismantled.
Advance Terrace resident Derek Brown says he and his wife, Anna, have spent about $20,000 to get Queenstown’s council to acknowledge the boardwalk, which connects the Arrowfields subdivision with their street, is unconsented.
While Brown eventually achieved that — the boardwalk, which was pressed against their boundary, started to be dismantled about three weeks ago — he says the process not only cost him a lot of money, but revealed the arrogance of council, which is now back-
tracking on a previous statement that said the boardwalk was consented, and shifting the blame for its construction to the developer.
‘‘Even though the rules are black and white, council just do what they want,’’ Brown says.
‘‘Basically, they just think, ‘we’re going wear them down … it’s going to cost them too much money, and we’ll win’.’’
In August, 2017, developer Arrowsouth was given consent for the Arrowfields subdivision on the northeast side of McDonnell Road, which required the developer to form a public walkway up to Advance Terrace.
Brown says the original design for the track — a gravel pathway culminating in a short set of steps beside his property — was put in for consent, notified, and ‘‘everyone was happy with that’’.
However, in 2019, Brown and several neighbours were appalled to discover a wooden boardwalk over three-metres high was being built over the track’s final stretch.
‘‘Basically, anyone walking on that would be looking straight into all our bedrooms,’’ Brown says.
‘‘Nobody here knew that [the design] had been changed.’’
Boardwalk finally pulled down; council shifts blame
Brown alleges somewhere between consent being granted and the developer beginning construction, a council staffer altered the design as ‘‘he didn’t want people to get off their bikes’’ to traverse the steps.
In 2019, former council spokesman Jack Barlow told Mountain Scene the ‘‘minor change’’ was due to ‘‘structural construction requirements’’, and it hadn’t been notified because no changes to the height, scale and scope of the structure meant it fell within the bounds of its resource consent.
But Brown, teaming up with two neighbours, disputed that claim, and alleged the structure also breached setback requirements.
He says they approached council for answers, but ‘‘they just didn’t want to talk to us’’.
‘‘So they built it and they just kept fobbing us off.’’
The trio of residents engaged Queenstown lawyer Graeme Todd, and despite Brown’s neighbours eventually bowing out of the stoush, he went on to hire a planner to report on the structure’s non-compliance with the district plan.
It wasn’t until Brown delivered the reports to council and announced he was taking them to Environment Court, that council ‘‘back-tracked’’.
A non-notified consent to change ‘‘an approved trail design’’ was granted last year, which meant the boardwalk had to be pulled down, and replaced with a gravel track.
Brown says he and his wife were lucky they could afford to take council on, but acknowledges a lot of people facing similar issues ‘‘just have to grin and bear it’’.
‘‘Why can’t council pay us that back … it wasn’t even a mistake — they meant to do it and refused point-blank to even talk about it with us.’’
Despite council’s previous assertion the ‘‘minor change’’ was within the bounds of the original resource consent for the track, a council spokeswoman now says the board walk was unconsented — but that was not a council mistake.
‘‘After the subdivision was approved, but before council had issued the section 224(c) certificate (which confirms all the conditions of the subdivision have been met), council was made aware the developer had constructed a boardwalk structure because a trail didn’t meet cycling gradient requirements.’’
She says council determined the boardwalk was not consented under the original subdivision approval, and that would need to be rectified.
‘‘The developer then sought a variation to the consent that would remove the boardwalk and replace it with a trail and some stairs.’’
Arrowsouth director Tony Clear couldn’t be reached by Scene for comment.