Thrilled: Arthurs Point Outstanding Natural Landscape Society chair Tom Dery in front of land owned by Gertrude's Saddlery, which has since been all but clear-felled

A hotly-contested proposal for an Arthurs Point housing development has been scuppered by an independent hearing panel finding
due process hadn’t been followed.

The Queenstown council-endorsed ruling refuses Gertrude’s Saddlery Ltd’s (GSL) proposal to rezone and develop housing on the land deemed ‘outstanding natural landscape’ (ONL) following four years of legal wrangling.

But GSL director Andrew Fairfax tells Mountain Scene he’ll appeal the decision that ‘‘surprised and disappointed’’ him.

‘‘Especially at a time when Queenstown desperately needs more houses.’’

Independent commissioners Jane Taylor (chair) and Ian Munro made the decision following a re-hearing of the proposal in February that
attracted 101 submissions, the majority from residents opposed to the proposal for a 44-lot housing development on the site.

GSL originally bought the site, which totals just under 6ha, in 2017.

Through council’s subsequent proposed district plan, it managed to get the land rezoned to make way for what then was an 89-lot housing
development, later downsized to 44 in October, 2022.

The ruling endorses Environment Court judge Jon Jackson’s finding in October, 2019, council misled the public by not making it clear, in the summary of district plan submissions, what was on the table.

Jackson found there was a real risk potential submitters were deprived of the chance to participate in a fair hearing and removing the land from the ONL ‘‘may have been illegal’’.

He suspended the re-zoning and ordered council to renotify land owners’ submissions, but that decision was appealed to the Court of Appeal and the High Court — both failed.

In their re-hearing report Taylor and Munro said council’s recommendation to proceed with the proposal following the initial independent hearing recommendation was ‘‘not binding’’.

It was made without the ‘‘breadth of evidence and analysis … available in this instance’’.

The ruling’s music to the ears of the Arthurs Point Outstanding Natural Landscape Society (APONLS), who led the charge to get the proposal re-heard.

Its chair Tom Dery tells Scene they were ‘‘really after one thing and that is the opportunity to have a fair say and the re-hearing provided us with that fair say’’.

‘‘The umpire’s decision appears to be categorically in favour of not proceeding with any development they had planned because it was a question of what’s important to the characteristics of this part of the world.

‘‘It is an outstanding national feature surrounded by an ONL … and council, through the voice of the people, decided this sort of development should not take place in this place.’’

However, Fairfax says the decision doesn’t rule out development because ‘‘a quarter of our land is already zoned for residential development’’.

‘‘This is a very complex and long-drawn-out situation, but it is incorrect to say that there will be no further development in the light of the QLDC decision on this particular proposed zone change.’’

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