‘It would be disastrous’: Sir Murray Brennan

Having flown from New York for a High Court hearing on a Gibbston subdivision, Brennan Wines’ distinguished founder only discovered it had been deferred for six months after he landed.

Oncologist and cancer researcher Sir Murray Brennan, who started the winery in the 1990s, has led opposition to local developer Graham Wilkinson’s plans for six residential lots and a commercial lot on a high-profile site near Nevis Bluff.

After Wilkinson’s Gibbston Vines Ltd applied for resource consent in 2017, Queenstown’s council said ‘no’, as did, subsequently, the Environment Court, on the perceived potential for ‘reverse sensitivity’.

That’s where residents living on those lots might complain about the activities of established vineyards around them.

Wilkinson’s High Court appeal was due to be heard on Monday last week.

However, in December the Environment Court allowed him to subdivide his 8.9ha site into two lots.

He says he successfully asked for a deferral — ‘‘and the council agreed with us’’ — to allow time to reassess options.

He adds he has ‘‘some sympathy’’ for Brennan having flown from New York, although he notes he’s not a party to the appeal.

Brennan, who’s 83, says he fears what he calls ‘‘high-density housing’’ would change the character of the main road and be ‘‘disastrous for the valley’’.

It would create a precedent, he fears — ‘‘you’re going to come around the Nevis Bluff 10 years from now and think, ‘oh, I’m in downtown Arrowtown’’’.

He also maintains it would scotch plans for Gibbston to become a ‘dark sky’ reserve.

‘‘Suddenly, one of the three places in New Zealand you can see the aurora, you can’t see it any more.’’

Wilkinson, however, says he’s not proposing high-density housing, but six homes on large lots.

‘‘If you drive from Nevis Bluff, you’re going to spot houses anyway, and the houses [we planned] were shielded and up the back.’’

He says the ‘dark sky’ argument may or may not be relevant.

‘‘The most important thing I think we all agree is landscape, and the Environment Court, and in council evidence, there was all agreement we weren’t creating a blot on the landscape.’’

And he adds his subdivision would create revenue for a winery/restaurant out front ‘‘that’s entirely consistent with what people would suggest Gibbston’s for’’.

Meanwhile, Brennan’s flight from New York wasn’t entirely in vain — he got to speak in Christchurch about plans for a cancer centre there.

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