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Rural land, ridgelines, wind farm reports ready

21 April 2005

Rural land, ridgelines, wind farm reports ready

A report by Planning Commissioners, on proposed Changes to Wellington’s District Plan relating to rural land, ridgelines and renewable energy, is to be considered for adoption by Wellington City Councillors on Wednesday 27 April.

The 75-page report on District Plan Changes 32 and 33 is the result of a marathon 12-day hearing in January and February.

More than 1300 individuals and organisations made submissions on the proposed Changes – and about 90 submitters appeared at the hearing, which was presided over by four Commissioners – Euan McQueen (Chair), Wellington City Councillors Ian McKinnon and Celia Wade-Brown, and Julia Williams (an experienced landscape architect).

Key recommendations by the Commissioners include: That Quartz Hill, near Makara, be added to the list of ridgelines and hilltops protected in the District Plan. This was by far the most controversial aspect of the proposed Plan changes due to concerns about the possibility of a large ‘wind farm’ in the area. wind energy facility provisions be included in the District Plan, with only minor amendments The Open Space B zoning (mainly undeveloped public land, including the Outer Town Belt) be removed from the area where the wind farm rules apply, recognising that wind energy facilities are not likely to be appropriate in these areas. The Council’s role as an advocate for renewable energy (especially solar) is more clearly stated in the District Plan. That ‘no-go’ areas not be identified in relation to possible future wind farm proposals. Submitters from the Makara community had wanted a ‘no-go’ zone identified around Makara Village and beyond - but the Committee did not accept this proposal.

Mr McQueen says the hearing and the writing of the report was a “great challenge” for the Commissioners. He agrees that the protagonists on both sides of the wind farm debate are “likely to find things about which to be both happy and disappointed” in the recommendations relating to Quartz Hill and wind farms in general.

In his report summary, Mr McQueen says some submitters “took their case close to the format and detail required for a resource consent hearing rather than maintaining it at the general level appropriate to a District Plan Change.

“The Panel had no confusion about what it was considering – the policy and regulatory framework for a possible future application.” Mr McQueen adds, however: “There was no doubt as to the sincerity and concern about the possible effects of wind energy facilities on settled areas within rural Wellington.

“We have accepted the Council’s proactive stance in preparing itself to deal with wind farm applications. The proposed rules establish criteria for assessing any wind farm resource consent applications – a subject on which the District Plan is currently ‘silent’.

“The Council has proposed the District Plan Change because it is clear that there will be applications for wind farms in Wellington sooner than later. This is, after all, a fairly breezy area.”

He says the Plan Changes and the hearing process has been all about strengthening rules relating to the city’s rural land, ridgelines - and renewable energy - including wind turbines.

The proposed District Plan Changes are the result of much community and Council debate. “The Changes are particularly important for the two-thirds of Wellington City which is rural, covering issues such as subdivision and types of activities allowed. They define our most important ridgelines and set out new rules to cover proposed developments within these special ridgeline and hilltop areas.”

Plan Change 30 – Ohiro Properties Ltd A report on proposed Change 30 to the District Plan – relating to an application to rezone rural land south of Brooklyn for residential development, will also be considered at the meeting.

Following a separate hearing presided over by Mr McQueen and Ms Williams, the Commissioners have recommended that proposed District Plan Change 30 be declined. The proposed Change arises from an application for the rezoning of rural land to the west of Happy Valley Road, south of Brooklyn. Ohiro Properties Ltd had applied for the land to be rezoned Outer Residential.

In their summary, the Commissioners says they consider that some form of residential activity on the land is likely to be acceptable in the longer term given its close proximity to Brooklyn and the CBD and the fact that it adjoins reticulated services, has access off a ‘collector’ road and has existing residential activity on three sides.

“However, any residential development on this site needs to be very carefully and sensitively planned with special resource management provisions to reflect the qualities and constraints of the land and its existing attributes. In this respect, the request for Plan change has fallen well short of the standard that the hearing panel considers is appropriate for the land.”

The process from here Next Wednesday Councillors will be asked to vote to either adopt or reject the reports. If they reject the report, the Plan Change proposals will be reheard. If the reports are adopted, the decisions will be notified to all submitters. The decisions can be appealed to the Environment Court.

The reports can be read on the Council’s website – www.Wellington.govt.nz

ENDS

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