Chunks of the rural Wakatipu Basin could become “urban parkland” if an independent rezoning proposal finds favour with the Queenstown Lakes District Council.
Arrowtown councillor Scott Stevens says the proposal has “sent pretty much everybody into a tail spin” while Queenstown Lakes District Council planning and regulatory manager Tony Avery said it was a “significant departure” from the Wakatipu zone.
But before anything goes ahead, council staff will review the Wakatipu Basin Land Use Report commissioned last year from Auckland based consultants Barry Kaye Associates Limited, Bridget Gilbert Landscape Architecture and StrategEase.
The council has released the report nicknamed “WBLUS” “for information purposes only”, with the rider that it “does not represent the council’s view at this time”.
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Councillors unanimously resolved at a full meeting at the Lake Hawea Community Centre on April 20 to note the contents and instructed staff to review it and report back with a planning response.
Any changes would take more than a year and would include a call for public submissions and a public hearing, possibly in 2018.
Queenstown planner Ben Farrell said during the public forum it was his personal opinion the report was “good, solid, robust” and urged the council not to drag the process out.
Because the report was independent, there was a good case to adopt it, he said.
“I have a concern if staff spend too much time thinking about what is right, no one will get it right . . . There’s some strong recommendations and I would like to see them happen reasonably quickly,” Farrell said.
POTENTIAL FOR IRREVERSIBLE DAMAGE
The report was commissioned because a 2016 district plan hearings panel minute said further basin development had potential to “cumulatively and irreversibly damage” the basin’s rural character and amenity values.
The panel made a preliminary conclusion the discretionary regime would not achieve district plan strategies.
The report presents a scenario that could halt undesirable incremental development in the rural zone.
Recommendations include the creation of a Wakatipu Basin Rural Amenity Zone with a minimum lot size of 80ha.
A Wakatipu Basin Lifestyle Precinct would include minimum lot sizes of 4000m sq and buildings would be a restricted discretionary activity.
New precincts at Ladies Mile Gateway and Arrowtown could include areas with low or medium density housing and have an “urban parkland” character.
Avery said in a report that further investigation and input from staff was required “in order to determine if the recommendations are appropriate, and if any changes to the [proposed district plan] are required”.
Mayor Jim Boult said the report was “very comprehensive” and “well developed”.
He asked Avery why the council should not seek a public response to it.
Avery said public comment could be “less well organised” and it was important to hear from a series of public interest groups.
While a public response might be helpful, submissions to the district plan review already gave a clear view, he said.
Avery reassured councillor Ella Lawton that removing Wakatipu from the district plan review should not affect the review of the rural chapter because the hearings committee had raised the issue itself.
Stevens said people were asking questions about what it meant for the amenity value of their property and it needed to be clear the report did not represent council opinion.
While he thought the report had to be done, “in my opinion they have severely missed the mark on a number of conclusions, including where urban development has capacity to be absorbed,” Stevens said.
For example, the Arrowtown golf club was wondering what it might mean for membership; there was no consideration of urban growth boundaries, including the entrance to Arrowtown, Stevens said.
But Stevens shared Farrell’s concerns about dragging out the process.
“We want to get it out there so people sent into a tailspin can be put at ease,” he said.
Queenstown councillor Alexa Forbes liked that the report was independent, because it had “taken away the emotion of people who live here”.
“It is about landscape. It is high time we did it, had that discussion. I am glad to have something independent, ” she said.
Councillor Penny Clark said the report incorrectly dismissed the Wakatipu basin as non-rural. There were farmers left in the basin, she said.