Archive | Pakiri

Council adds to Pakiri regional park

Published 5 December 2012

The Auckland Council has paid $1.2 million for a 29.5ha addition to the regional park being developed at Pakiri, at the north-eastern extremity of the region.

The Auckland Regional Council began the park when it bought boxer David Tua’s 52ha at the southern end of Pakiri Beach for $10.25 million in 2005. Mr Tua, his manager Kevin Barry and manager of his financial affairs, Martin Pugh, intended to turn the property into a retreat, but instead their falling out ended in bitter High Court litigation.

The council added 126ha of the adjoining former Arrigato land rising above the end of the beach for another $7 million 3 weeks later, also sold after a falling out between developers. The Arrigato price was $19 million less than the previous purchase price.

The new property is largely low-lying pasture on Pakiri River Rd, the main road leading to Pakiri Beach. Council parks, recreation & heritage forum chairman Sandra Coney said it offered opportunities to enhance access to the existing regional parkland. The Auckland Council will take ownership of the extra property from 1 July 2013.

Cllr Coney said: “This property provides a link between the road and the existing beachfront block of parkland. It has potential for back-to-basics camping, carparking facilities & vehicle access.

“Pakiri Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the country, with white sands, great surf and spectacular views from the clifftop parkland overlooking the beach.”

Development of this land will be considered as part of the concept planning for the parkland at Pakiri and will be subject to public consultation and engagement with mana whenua.

The purchase money came from the council’s parks acquisition fund.

Earlier stories:

20 June 2007: ARC rejects sale of 5ha lot in new Pakiri park

15 May 2006: Regional council objects to 590m² house overlooking Pakiri

26 March 2006: Fruit World & Panda directors plan Pakiri lodge

21 December 2005: ARC buys Arrigato land to enlarge new Pakiri park

3 December 2005: Regional council buys Tua’s Pakiri Beach retreat

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Attribution: Council release, story written by Bob Dey for the Bob Dey Property Report.

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ARC rejects sale of 5ha lot in new Pakiri park

Published 20 June 2007

The Auckland Regional Council voted on 15 June against selling a portion of the 126ha at Pakiri it bought from the receivers of a bust development partnership.

 

The council had put 3 options out to submitters – reduce the size of one lot (lot 16) and dispose of the reconfigured lot, sell & transfer title rights associated with the Arrigato property (the name of a company which previously owned the farmland at the southern end of Pakiri Beach), or to continue to fund the entire $9 million acquisition cost without recovery associated with the acquisition.

 

The council bought the Arrigato land in December 2005, shortly after buying the adjoining 52ha Tuaman property to create a $19.25 million regional park.

 

The council got a valuation early this year showing the reduced 5.1ha lot 16 was worth $950,000. Selling that would save the council $67,000/year in debt servicing.

 

However, council parks general manager Lance Vervoort said submissions opposing sale of lot 16 – led by locals – ran 3:1 against those in favour of selling.

 

The council considered options for the land in February, including further subdivision, but ruled that out because of the visual and potential stormwater & wastewater impacts.

 

Cllr David Hay said the council should consider other options for the $950,000: “We could buy a piece of land on Whangaparaoa Peninsula – I know of one, a private beach.

 

“Are we going to try and protect every piece of coastal land from having some building on it? That’s going to e very expensive. I appreciate it’s nice to have, but where do we actually stop?”

 

Cllr Hay said he wasn’t at all surprised by the local opposition to selling: “I’ve never seen local people support selling a local park.”

 

Earlier stories:

15 May 2006: Regional council objects to 590m² house overlooking Pakiri

26 March 2006: Fruit World & Panda directors plan Pakiri lodge

21 December 2005: ARC buys Arrigato land to enlarge new Pakiri park

3 December 2005: Regional council buys Tua’s Pakiri Beach retreat

 

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Attribution: Council meeting & agenda, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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Regional council objects to 590m² house overlooking Pakiri

Published 15 May 2006


Auckland Regional Council has lodged a submission opposing consent for a 590m² house on the one 4.8ha lot in the former Arrigato block overlooking Pakiri Beach which the council didn’t buy for a regional park.



Regional council regulatory services general manager Janine Bell said the 4.8ha lot 3 would be the sole remaining vacant house site on the coastal escarpment and the proposed building would be in a highly prominent position.


“The proposed building would adversely affect the landscape, rural character & natural character values of the Pakiri coastal environment. The proposal would be visually dominant from the adjoining parkland and also from approaches to the park. It would adversely affect the amenity values & recreational experience of the park.”


Ms Bell said the application didn’t acknowledge the landscape status of the site: “The site has been identified as part of an outstanding natural landscape in proposed change 8 to the Auckland regional policy statement.”


The application by Rewac Ltd (name changed from Pakiri Lodge Ltd on 1 July 2005; directors Raeburn Paul Ah Chee, Evelyn & William Chong, Epsom) to the Rodney District Council is for a 590m² 2-level 6-bedroom single household unit on a 4.8125ha site, and consent to vary original subdivision consent condition relating to effluent discharge.


Submissions closed on 21 April.


Mr Ah Chee is also a director of caterers Panda Group Ltd & Penguin Catering Ltd. Mr Chong is a director of Fruit World Ltd, Vegie World Holdings Ltd and Botany Produce Ltd, CC Flower Ltd, Chabro Holdings Ltd, Chapel Produce Ltd, Moorest Investments Ltd, Orb Finance Ltd & Paeony Holdings Ltd.


Related stories:


15 May 2006: Regional council files opposition to 4 urban projects in countryside


26 March 2006: Fruit World & Panda directors plan Pakiri lodge


21 December 2005: ARC buys Arrigato land to enlarge new Pakiri park


3 December 2005: Regional council buys Tua’s Pakiri Beach retreat


 


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Attribution: Council submission, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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Fruit World & Panda directors plan Pakiri lodge

Published 26 March 2006


Jurisdiction: Rodney District



Neighbourhood: Pakiri


Applicant: Rewac Ltd (name changed from Pakiri Lodge Ltd on 1 July 2005; directors Raeburn Paul Ah Chee, Evelyn & William Chong, Epsom)


Application detail: M Greenwood Rd, lot 3, land use consent to erect a 590m2 2-level 6-bedroom single household unit on a 4.8125ha site, and consent to vary original subdivision consent condition relating to effluent discharge


Submissions: close Friday 21 April


Applicants other interests: Mr Ah Chee is also a director of caterers Panda Group Ltd & Penguin Catering Ltd. Mr Chong is a director of Fruit World Ltd, Vegie World Holdings Ltd and Botany Produce Ltd, CC Flower Ltd, Chabro Holdings Ltd, Chapel Produce Ltd, Moorest Investments Ltd, Orb Finance Ltd & Paeony Holdings Ltd.


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ARC buys Arrigato land to enlarge new Pakiri park

Published 20 December 2005


The Auckland Regional Council has conditionally added 126ha of the former Arrigato land at Pakiri to the 52ha Tuaman property it bought 3 weeks ago to create a $19.25 million regional park.



The council announced its second Pakiri purchase – bought for $9 million from the owners’ receivers – today.


It comes:

10 years after land developer Ian Gillespie (through 2 companies, of which Arrigato Investments Ltd was one) began his attempt to subdivide 149ha of the former Greenwood farm into 14 lots
5 years after High Court judge Robert Chambers rejected the whole basis on which the Environment Court granted consent for that subdivision
4 years after the Appeal Court overturned Justice Chambers’ ruling
5 years after Kitchener Homes Ltd (director Kim Spencer; at the time he was a shareholder who had been released from bankruptcy the month before and his wife, Susan Hamilton, was director)
after numerous council abatement notices over replanting programmes & their maintenance, and
after resolute opposition by the regional council to the extent of subdivision & the novel basis on which the Environment Court allowed it.

It’s the fourth patch of Rodney District which the regional council has added to its regional parks portfolio in 3 months. The others were:

the 52ha property adjoining the Arrigato site, bought from heavyweight boxer David Tua’s Tuaman Inc for $10.25 million
the 843ha Atiu Creek Farm at Tapora, gifted by owners Pierre & Jackie Chatelanat, and
a 247ha South Head property bought for $5.4 million, with Rodney District Council contributing $1 million.

Asking prices rocketed


Mr Gillespie bought 169ha for $3.2 million and put together a subdivision scheme priced at a total $9.64 million, serviced & planted. Mr Spencer bought 149ha from Mr Gillespie, partly reshaped the subdivision and put asking prices totalling $24.7 million it, plus $1.6 million to cover landscaping & planting bonds. A wedge of the most difficult terrain – a steep, mountain-goat triangle down to the southern end of the beach – is excluded from the sale to the regional council.


Kitchener Homes, which had owned the property, was wound up on Inland Revenue’s application on 15 December. By then, the Arrigato property was owned by Fisherton Ltd (Mr Spencer) & Anzani Pakiri Ltd (Richard Kroon).


Mr Kroon has spent much of this year trying to escape from his business relationship with Mr Spencer, resulting in receivership for these 2 Arrigato property owners and several other joint-venture companies, and also culminating in Mr Kroon’s prosecution for allegedly kidnapping Mr Spencer at the Pakiri property. That allegation is not likely to reach trial before late 2006.


Mr Kroon said today this transaction by the receivers, Grant Graham & Brendon Gibson (Ferrier Hodgson), cleaned up the last of the joint ventures. He’d got his money back on the others and would be slightly under on this one.


Coney says unrivalled park will protect 3km of coastline


Regional council parks & heritage committee chairman Sandra Coney said the 2 Pakiri properties combined would create an unrivalled regional park and protect 3km of the coast: “The purchase of this property protects the backdrop to the beach so no trophy houses will intrude on to this part of Pakiri Beach. Visitors to the southern end of the property will be able to enjoy stunning & uninterrupted vistas that stretch from Whangarei Heads to Great Barrier Island.”


Cllr Coney said the joining of the 2 properties also allowed for the protection of a number of culturally significant sites, including an extensive hilltop pa site, midden & terraces.


The committee’s deputy chairman, Christine Rose, who’s the Rodney representative on the regional council (and was photographed, at right, on purchase of the Tuaman land with Cllr Coney, David Tua & ARC chairman Mike Lee) said the new regional park would protect this part of Pakiri from subdivision & development, for the enjoyment of generations to come: “This property has historically been subject to many complex circumstances, therefore public ownership is a positive outcome for both the property & the region. It protects iconic landforms in a continuous link here, from coast to headland. The preservation of these landforms from prominent coastal development is critical.”


Access to the former Tuaman part of the property will be possible from Thursday 22 December, when ownership transfers to the regional council, but full park facilities won’t be introduced to either part of the park for some years. The Arrigato section won’t be formally opened for a number of years, but casual foot access will be possible from late January, once title is transferred to the council.


Earlier stories:


3 December 2005: Regional council buys Tua’s Pakiri Beach retreat


28 October 2005: Councils buy South Kaipara farm for regional park


4 October 2005: 843ha Kaipara farm gifted to ARC


9 September 2005: Kroon accused of kidnapping Spencer, and financier gets $4 million judgment against Spencer


10 August 2004: ARC proposes changes to Environment Court costs


12 September 2003: Coastal subdivision prices skyrocket


29 May 2002: Integrated revegetation management structure for Pakiri


27 May 2002: Arrigato case back in Environment Court


13 March 2002: Abatement notices considered to restrain Arrigato development after revegetation failure


4 March 2002: Arrigato revegetation failure rate very high


12 September 2001: Appeal Court sets aside anti-Arrigato judgment (long version)


11 September 2001: Appeal Court sets aside anti-Arrigato judgment (short version)


18 February 2001: Pakiri beachfront subdivision approved


18 February 2001: Coherent planning explanation hard to come by


5 June 2000: Pakiri: Anti-urban creepists versus novel development approach


27 May 2000: ARC fights on against coastal subdivision


 


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Regional council buys Tua’s Pakiri Beach retreat

Published 3 December 2005


The Auckland Regional Council has bought David Tua’s 52ha at the southern end of Pakiri Beach for $10.25 million.



A large portion of the Tua land is low-lying, with a sharply rising backdrop of pasture. It was previously owned by local farmer John Matheson, who won consent in 2001 to subdivide it into 6 lots before selling to Tuaman Inc, the heavyweight boxer’s trading company, for $7.5 million.


Mr Tua, his manager Kevin Barry and manager of his financial affairs, Martin Pugh, intended to turn the property into a retreat, but instead their falling out ended in bitter High Court litigation.


Photos: Walking the beach with David Tua are regional councillors Sandra Coney, Mike Lee (chairman) & Christine Rose.


Next to Arrigato block


The property adjoins another controversial block, the 149ha Arrigato property running up the ridge at the very end of the beach, which Ian Gillespie fought to get consent to divide into 14 titles before selling it to Kitchener Homes Ltd (Susan Hamilton & Kim Spencer).


Mr Gillespie bought 169ha for $3.2 million in 1995, sold some then sold the balance to Kitchener in 2000. Under Mr Spencer’s control there have been frequent disputes – one over allegations that he illegally cut a road down the hillside.


Abatement notices were considered in 2002 to get a proper planting programme under way after the initial planting failed through lack of care. The Auckland Regional Council issued an abatement notice in June for the same reason, but in the meantime Mr Spencer has become embroiled in allegations of kidnapping against former business partner Richard Kroon – who was to have been involved in several rural & coastal developments with Mr Spencer.


“Quintessential kiwi beach experience,” says Lee


Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee said the Tua land would make a spectacular regional park: “Pakiri Beach is well known & loved by Aucklanders already. A regional park on this part of the coast will provide visitors with a unique opportunity to access a truly spectacular ocean beachfront – so they can enjoy what can only be described as a quintessential kiwi beach experience.


“The ARC has been in a race against time to secure outstanding coastal landscapes for future generations.  This, we believe, given the price of coastal land, is our last chance to secure Pakiri Beach. The property is stunningly beautiful & of national importance.”


Council parks & heritage committee chairman Sandra Coney said the 900m of sandy coastal foreshore and stands of mature coastal pohutukawa trees along the dunes were inspiring. She also acknowledged the significance of the land to Ngati Manuhiri.


“The ARC has long been interested in having a park along this part of the east coast and is extremely pleased to have secured this property for the people of Auckland and protected it from potential development. Although a full range of park facilities will not be developed for some years, people will be able to walk across the land from 22 December, when ownership transfers to the ARC.”


Mr Tua welcomed the regional council’s purchase: “This land holds a special place in my heart. As a people person, I am pleased that the general public of New Zealand will be able to enjoy the property, for generations to come. When I heard it was the ARC that wanted to purchase the property, it was an assurance to me that it was OK to let go.”


Cllr Christine Rose, deputy chairman of the regional council and of he parks & heritage committee, and Rodney representative on the council, said the relationship between Mr Tua and the new park would be acknowledged in some appropriate way. She said the land would be suitable for picnicking & walking.


The new acquisition will be the council’s 25th regional park. Its previous 3 additions were 247ha at Waipiro Bay, South Head, on the South Kaipara Peninsula, in October; 187ha at Waitawa, near Kawakawa Bay, in September 2004; and an 843ha property, Atiu Creek Farm on the Tapora Peninsula near Wellsford, which was gifted to the council by its owners in October. 


Earlier stories:


28 October 2005: Councils buy South Kaipara farm for regional park


4 October 2005: 843ha Kaipara farm gifted to ARC


9 September 2005: Kroon accused of kidnapping Spencer, and financier gets $4 million judgment against Spencer


29 May 2002: Integrated revegetation management structure for Pakiri


1 April 2005: ARC recommends rejecting 2 Mangawhai-Pakiri sand extraction consents


13 March 2002: Abatement notices considered to restrain Arrigato development after revegetation failure


18 February 2001: Pakiri beachfront subdivision approved


18 February 2001: Coherent planning explanation hard to come by


 


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Kroon accused of kidnapping Spencer, and financier gets $4 million judgment against Spencer

Published 9 September 2005


Auckland property developer Richard Kroon, 52, has been named as the man alleged to have kidnapped former business partner Kim Spencer at Pakiri last November, and of demanding with menaces, commissioning a crime with a firearm and injuring with intent to injure.



Mr Kroon denies the charges, although he wasn’t called on to enter a plea in a brief appearance in the North Shore District Court on Thursday. He asked to have his name suppression lifted and was remanded on less stringent bail terms to a predepositions hearing on Thursday 20 October.


Mr Kroon & Mr Spencer entered joint ventures on coastal developments north of Auckland in late 2002 & early 2003 but in recent months companies in those ventures have been steadily placed in receivership by their financiers.


Both men have joint-venture companies facing liquidation – Mr Kroon’s Anzani Settlement Ltd and Mr Spencer’s Settlement Fisherton Ltd, on Marsden Real Estate Ltd’s application, due back in the Auckland High Court on Thursday 29 September. Mr Spencer’s Kitchener Homes Ltd, the company he used to buy the controversial Arrigato property at Pakiri in 2001, reached a settlement with Inland Revenue and the IRD action to wind Kitchener up was withdrawn on 1 September. Another Spencer company, Tomarata Estates Ltd, faces an Auckland Finance Ltd application to wind it up on Thursday 6 October.


Auckland Finance Ltd has also taken action against Mr Spencer personally, getting summary judgment for $4 million in the High Court last week.


Mr Kroon & Brian Mead developed the first stage of Chancery, the office, retail & café development round a courtyard on NZI’s 1980s triple-tower site between Freyberg Square & Albert Park. But on 31 August Mr Kroon resigned from Chancery & Westmark companies to distance his partners from the criminal court case.


The case put together by Orewa police is that Mr Kroon and another man, who appeared in the Palmerston North District Court on Tuesday and still has name suppression, kidnapped Mr Spencer on 16 November 2004 and forced him to sign papers transferring profits from his business.


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ARC recommends rejecting 2 Mangawhai-Pakiri sand extraction consents




Published: 1 April 2005


A special meeting of the Auckland Regional Council’s environmental management committee has recommended to Conservation Minister Chris Carter that he refuse 2 resource consent applications to extract sand from Mangawhai & Pakiri.


McCallum Bros Ltd & Sea Tow Ltd applied for resource consents to extract a combined amount of 76,000m³ of sand/year for 20 years.


Committee chairman Dianne Glenn said commissioners heard extensive evidence about the natural & physical environment where the proposed extraction would take place, and the adverse effects the proposals would have on that environment.


“Having heard the evidence and visited the area, we are of the view that preserving & protecting the Mangawhai-Pakiri coastal environment better promotes the sustainable management of natural & physical resources than allowing the sand extraction activities,” she said.


“The coastal environment surrounding the proposed extraction sites has significant natural, physical, cultural, amenity & landscape values, including the habitat of 2 threatened bird species, the NZ fairy tern & the NZ dotteral.”


The commissioners got 678 submissions opposing extraction, 20 in support.


Kaipara Excavators Ltd got consent to dredge for sand in the outer Hauraki Gulf, including inshore at Pakiri, in 1998, had its approval affirmed by the Environment Court and beat off a High Court appeal by Greg McDonald, a local who also fought the Arrigato subdivision overlooking the southern end of Pakiri Beach.


However, Mr McDonald isn’t finished yet, finding new grounds to go back to the High Court this year.


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Pakiri subdivision rejected by High Court

A close study of the findings

Ian Gillespie’s Pakiri development plan has been turned down in the High Court, where Justice Robert Chambers (right) decided it should be sent back to the Environment Court for reconsideration.

The High Court judge rejected all the Environment Court’s central findings.

“Taking into account the various statutory documents and in particular Change 55 [to the Rodney District Council’s district plan], I find it difficult to see how the court could conclude that this proposal was in any way consistent with them,” Justice Chambers wrote in his judgment, dated 14 September.

Mr Gillespie said this weekend he would appeal to the Court of Appeal — but added that if he failed there, he would proceed with the lesser development already allowed.

His proposal, through his companies Arrigato Investments and Evensong Enterprises, as considered by the High Court was for 14 rural-residential lots plus a pa site. Mr Gillespie bought the 149ha farm at the southern end of Pakiri Beach in 1995 and has already sold three lots.

The land was in six titles, on which can be built a dwelling, minor dwelling and ancillary buildings. Consent was granted to subdivide those six titles plus another lot into nine lots.

[My last story on this subject can be found in the Discipline/Resource management/High Court file on the Report map page. I have previously written about it for the NZ Herald.]

Significant issue

The issue is of considerable significance — Pakiri is a relatively untouched east coast surf beach , over the hill from Leigh in an area just north of Auckland which is coming under increasing pressure from lifestyle development, changes in land use as vineyards are established around Matakana, and further changes just inland from the beach as transferrable title rights are granted over forest on Millbrook Station to enable rural-residential subdivision along Matakana Rd.

Many of the farms between the Matakana district and Mangawhai, immediately north of the 20km of Pakiri Beach, have gone on the market over the past year, more than can be explained by simple turnover of dairy properties and an indication that the lifestyle-block trend is heading in that direction. Rising land prices will make such a transition certain.

In the centre of all these changes, Pakiri Beach is also undergoing substantive change. Fred Thorp was granted consent in 1996, revised and renewed in 1998, to build a house which was to fit in with the environment by being built below a ridgeline. It sits on a low ridge, surrounded by no foliage, and is highly noticeable to anyone passing along the beach.

Consent was granted last year for a lodge to take 30 guests, near the Pakiri river mouth. More subdivision is possible between the Thorp and Gillespie properties. Along the dunes north of the river mouth, two houses have been built but they are mostly obscured.

80ha above coastline revegetated

The Gillespie subdivision proposal, reaping a gross return of nearly $10 million, involved revegetating the pasture above the beach with native bush. That work has been carried out irrespective of the state of the consents. About 240,000 plants were planted over 80ha of steep hillside above the southern end of the beach two years ago.

The district council reached agreement with Mr Gillespie during the Environment Court hearing early last year, but the Auckland Regional Council continued with its opposition. When consent was granted, the regional council continued its steadfast opposition in the High Court.

The crucial opposition topic in the Environment Court seemed to be to the existence of any houses, which the subdivision would obviously bring about.

The Environment Court panel, headed by Judge Gordon Whiting with commissioners Dart and Gapes, rejected the evidence of regional council witnesses on the visual impact of built structures.

“The evidence… seemed to us to be founded on the perception that buildings are inherently negative visual elements in this coastal landscape… We consider that the intrusion of buildings on a ridgeline, even in the coastal environment, is not inherently unattractive,” Judge Whiting wrote.

Judge said revegetation not a tradeoff

The court also approved of the enhancement resulting from revegetation: “We find it will deal with the adverse effects existing erosion, subsidence and slipping and will have the further positive ecological effect of establishing a stepping stone, thus enabling the establishment of bird corridors between the offshore islands of Little Barrier and the Hen & Chickens, facilitating the transfer of bird life from these islands and the opportunity to establish endangered species on the coastal edge and subsequently inland.”

The court rejected as “a narrow interpretation” regional council evidence alleging revegetation was a tradeoff to get subdivision.

Regional and district council policies and objectives refer to preventing inappropriate subdivision. Judge Whiting referred to the usual manner of saving “haphazard pockets of native vegetation,” by allowing property to be fragmented. Proposals to do that, along with a bush covenant, have commonly won support from both councils.

The judge liked the idea of enhancing the landscape but said that, “unfortunately, the objectives, policies and rules of the special character area with which we are concerned do not implement or encourage that objective.”

During the hearing, the judge questioned references to degraded pasture as being any more “natural” than revegetation and, in the judgment, accentuated his view that the Gillespie proposal “clearly furthers the single purpose of sustainable management that forms the basis of the [Resource Management] Act.”

No brownie points

Justice Chambers said, in effect, it’s fine to revegetate, but the law as it stands gives you no brownie points for doing so.

The eighth line of Justice Chambers’ judgment gives a clear indication of the direction his ruling would take. In an outline of how Mr Gillespie’s company, Arrigato, had consent for nine lots, the judge wrote: “But Arrigato was not satisfied with that. It wants to subdivide further…”

This issue becomes highly relevant later in the judgment, where Justice Chambers concurred with regional and district council submissions on the “creep” effect, of getting one consent for a minor subdivision then seeking consent for something major, for which the effects would seem less adverse than if they were compared against the original situation, of no consents.

My inference from the judgment’s line 8 is that Justice Chambers thought Mr Gillespie was being greedy. Reaction: chop him back.

Mr Gillespie’s reaction was that, if he’s forced to stick with fewer lots, he’ll sell up and the environment may well be worse. “They [buyers] can put rails down the front [monorails to the beach, as was suggested in evidence; Arrigato agreed in this consent case to prevent that happening]. They can eat the trees.

“They [the regional council] arrive back at the situation they had before, which I think would be a great shame. People who buy don’t have to stick with the native bush thing. I think a great opportunity for coastal restoration might be lost.”

Incentives to save bush

In the district council’s plan change 55, it says subdivision is limited to three main types. “Firstly, as an incentive for native bush and natural feature protection subdivision enabling the creation of a rural-residential site where native bush or natural features are legally protected is provided for.” The second and third types enabled boundary changes and subdivision for specified activities.

The specific objective for the area is “to protect and retain the natural, coastal, non-urban and remote character of the Pakiri coastline and surrounding rural backdrop.”

Justice Chambers concluded that the Environment Court “did not seem to consider that its decision [to grant consent] was contrary to the statutory documents. That leads me to conclude that it must therefore have misunderstood them.”

Wrong comparison alleged

The High Court judge accepted a submission from counsel for the regional council, Ian Cowper, that the proposed subdivision “should have been compared with the environment as it currently exists, namely some 150ha of coastal and pastoral land with just one dwelling on it.”

If the judge is right in comparing with current, he’s wrong in one conclusion. The beginnings of a forest existed when the Environment Court heard this case. Question: At what point does a set of plantings become a forest?

But Justice Chambers is probably half-right in another aspect of this “existing environment” issue. He found the Environment Court extended existing law by taking into account “credible or likely variations to that existing environment in the light of existing resource consents and/or evidence relating to a development as of right.”

The definition of “the environment” in the Resource Management Act “refers to something existing, not hypothetical,” Justice Chambers said. A consent for change, already granted, has to be an existing condition on an environment. You can be pedantic in either direction, depending on which viewpoint you want to win.

My inference is that the judge was pushing a viewpoint, and that the Environment Court was not absolutely wrong in its assessment, which was a practical rather than academic consideration.

But, in rejecting the Environment Court’s acceptance of enhancement and the failure of the special character area documents to mention it, Justice Chambers noted subdivisional incentives were for “the protection of significant stands of native bush,” then went on to say Arrigato’s subdivision was of a totally different character from the first type mentioned in plan change 55.

Chambers accepts evidence Whiting rejected, without hearing it

He added: “There is a significant difference between wanting to protect established native bush and wanting to encourage sporadic planting of new bush as a quid pro quo for what would otherwise be a subdivision outside the objectives, policies, and rules for the area.”

By this, the High Court judge accepts the “tradeoff” evidence which the Environment Court rejected, although in the High Court this evidence was not heard. And he introduces the word “sporadic” as an inaccurate put-down.

From there, Justice Chambers picked up on two points: one, he introduced the public consultation process , and secondly he noted Mr Cowper’s complaint that the court was trying to rectify a deemed deficiency “without the need for any of the statutory procedures for a change to district plans.”

“I accept the correctness of that criticism,” Justice Chambers said.

As well as lamenting the absence of revegetation incentives, the Environment Court went to considerable length to say how it found the revegetation already begun would be of great benefit in preventing soil erosion, subsidence, and encouragement of birdlife.

Thus the Environment Court found positive, not adverse, effects.

In discussing whether the adverse effects on the environment are minor, Justice Chambers went through the process of establishing the Environment Court had made a wrong comparison. From my reading of the lower court’s judgment, that comparison of possible house numbers was largely irrelevant to the finding of positive effects.

My conclusions

Judge Whiting and his two commissioners took the approach of affirmative action, finding that houses are not intrinsically unsightly and that a large area of carefully planned revegetation in this location would be of great environmental benefit.

They believed this reafforestation would amount to sustainable management.

Auckland Regional Council wants to stop the uncontrolled spread of housing through rural and coastal areas and sees this case as a defining stand.

Justice Chambers supported the anti-development stance, thinks developer Ian Gillespie is being greedy and should be content with what he can already do, but is wrong in some of his emphatic rejections of the Environment Court judgment.

The outcome, more delay in subdivision, will do no harm to the reafforestation programme unless Mr Gillespie sells without the proposed covenants in place.

The Gillespie scheme would benefit an exposed coastal hillside, although it may take many years for the canopy to grow, and the handful of houses are unlikely to be a serious issue for beach users. The forest cover might in fact increase the isolated feel.

The Environment Court found the proposal was not precedent-setting, without giving reasons. Justice Chambers feels the lower court may reach a different conclusion after correcting the errors he found in its judgment. It seems inescapable to me that others will use this development to justify more schemes.

The task for planners and the planning system will then be to ensure effects are positive, but for the whole area a trend away from stock and pasture can be expected.

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