WELL-heeled neighbours are at war over gatherings at Queenstown’s most historic rural property.
Thurlby Domain, on Speargrass Flat Road, was developed in the 1870s by prominent political and business leader, Bendix Hallenstein.
Since buying the property 31 years ago, couple Vicki and Revell Buckham have stabilised the striking ruins of Hallenstein’s original mansion, and restored other historic buildings.
They’ve also freely let many community groups and individuals use the property and have charged a fee for private events like weddings that’s gone towards maintaining and restoring the grounds and buildings.
On finding they needed a resource consent for more than 14 ‘temporary’ annual events, they applied to the council to host up to 100 events a year with a maximum 150 guests at each.
Vicki Buckham’s application early this year attracted 31 submissions, 15 in opposition, 14 in support, and two seeking changes.
Opposing submitters include nearby residents, tech billionaire/philanthropist Rod Drury, developers Chris and Michaela Meehan, arts patrons Abby O’Neil and Carroll Joynes and accountant Craig Benington and his wife Nanette.
Many criticise past events for attracting noise, litter, traffic congestion and drunkenness, and fear their peace and quiet will be even more compromised if more events are allowed.
They also don’t have faith proposed mitigation measures will be complied with.
Supporting submittors include cartoonist Garrick Tremain and his wife Jill, who say in the 15 years they lived nearby they never experienced ‘‘undue or even discernible noise from any functions held there’’.
Arrowtowner Simon Stamers-Smith, Hallenstein’s great-great-grandson, supports ‘‘continued free access to Thurlby and its use for occasional commercial events’’.
Queenstown and District Historical Society says the Buckhams have been ‘‘dedicated custodians’’ of Thurlby’s history, buildings and grounds and generous in allowing free access to community groups and others.
Ahead of a public hearing on September 19 and 20, a planner’s recommending consent be declined.
Rather than being a ‘temporary’ activity, she says the frequency of the proposed events, and in perpetuity, makes them a ‘commercial’ activity that’s contrary to the area’s amenity values.
In a report filed last Friday, Vicki Buckham says she’s surprised and disappointed about the allegations over past events, which she refutes — ‘‘our property is not ‘party central’’’.
Apart from their immediate neighbour, whom they’re proposing to screen with a two-metre-high acoustic fence, they’d never heard before from any other objectors, some of whom hosted ‘‘many more evening functions on a regular basis than we seek consent for’’.
But Vicki’s offering to fully monitor all future functions, and, at the hearing, they’ll outline plans to host fewer events than proposed, and ‘‘significantly limit nighttime use’’.