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Fears Developers’ Deep Pockets Will Defeat Justice

Community Fears Developers’ Deep Pockets Will Defeat Justice

Tairua residents and their supporters are concerned that the deep pockets of developers may yet see an unwanted marina built in the small Coromandel town. That’s despite the combined Environment Waikato, Ministry of Conservation and Thames Coromandel District Council Hearing Committee decision today turning down the application from Tairua Marine Ltd and Pacific Paradise Ltd (a Watts Group joint venture).

Spokesman for the locals, Bishop Bruce Gilberd, says the developers have already signaled their intent to take their application to the Environment Court.

“We’re delighted with the Hearing Committee’s decision, but we simply don’t have equivalent resources to properly fund our opposition if the developers take the matter any further. It will be hard to continue our opposition but we will find a way”

“The consent process in general seems heavily weighted in favour of those with the deepest pockets. In most cases, community resources will be greatly outweighed by the developer’s. It seems the more the courts are involved the less the community has a voice.” Bishop Gilberd says most locals are vehemently opposed to the development, which would be the first of its kind in New Zealand, given it will be inserted into a bay with existing residences on three sides.

The Hearing Committee, in its decision turning down the application, said “the project would be contrary to sustainable management as required by the Resource Management Act. The Paku Bay area contained outstanding natural features worthy of protection and the marina development would endanger the naturalness of the bay, reduce the area available for public use and alter the quality of access.”

Julian Dawson of Kensington Swan, a Solicitor opposing the application, says this case is significant because of the high level of community interest and its potential impact on the Coastal Marine Area. Fundamentally the proposal brings into question the conflict between public use and recreation within the coastal environment versus private and exclusive interests.

The 150-berth marina would take up almost half of Tairua’s Paku Bay for berths, a dewatering area, parking, sand reserve and two enclosing rockwalls (400 metres and 180 metres long).

More than 125 members of the community gave evidence against the application, while just seven supported it. No one said they would buy a berth if the development proceeded.

Environment Waikato staff recommended the application be declined in its entirety while the Thames Coromandel District Council consultant did not support the application in its present form. Department of Conservation staff, Tairua Tangata Whenua and three Hauraki iwi opposed the application.

Three Tairua community organisations representing more than 300 financial members – the Tairua Environmental Society, the Guardians of Paku Bay Association and the Paku Bay Preservation Society – also opposed the application.

The hearing took 18 working days and the four Commissioners – two appointed by Environment Waikato, one by Thames Coromandel District Council and one by the Minister of Conservation – considered 200 statements of evidence

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