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Society to appeal controversial decision

Sunday April 24

Society to appeal controversial decision to Environment Court

The Waitakere Ranges Protection Society is to appeal a controversial decision by the Waitakere City Council that allows small-lot subdivision in the foothills of the Waitakere Ranges to the Environment Court.

Announcing the decision, Society President John Edgar said that the council’s decision on the Duncan application would adversely affect the outstanding landscape values of the area and is further proof that better measures are needed to protect the area from inappropriate development.

“This decision was carried on a split vote by just two councillors and was against the clear advice of council officers,” said Mr Edgar (*see attached minutes).

The Duncan application sought to subdivide a 2.7 hectare block into three lots, all less than one hectare, in spite of the current property being less than the four hectares allowed under current underlying zoning.

“Council planners argued that the subdivision would have adverse landscape effects, was contrary to various planning documents and would set an inappropriate precedent. We agree with that assessment and believe there are substantive grounds to challenge the decision.

“The idea that an already small block could be subdivided at all is outrageous but here the council has allowed it to be cut up into three lots.

“In terms of the bigger picture, this kind of outcome represents the very worst of ad hoc, brainless, poor quality decision-making about the Ranges. It is a good example of why we need special legislation to protect the area and why the foothills need to be included.

“In spite of the best efforts by council officers, rogue decisions will always be made and loopholes in the rules exploited by determined developers. The Resource Management Act process just doesn’t deliver the consistency and quality outcomes we need.

“It is telling that the underlying zoning for the area sets a four hectare minimum lot size – which the Duncan property is already well below - whilst the Swanson Structure Plan, which sets lower standards, is itself under challenge in the Court.

“Much greater certainty and longer-term protection is essential if we are to avoid this sort of thing becoming more prevalent in the future,” Mr Edgar concluded.

Mr Edgar said the Society had taken legal advice and was proceeding with the appeal after careful consideration of the narrower range of issues that are relevant to such appeals. He said he was also hopeful that the Auckland Regional Council would appeal the decision as well.

Attachment: Minutes of the Waitakere City Council Hearing on the Duncan Application

The Waitakere Ranges Protection Society is a community-based organisation with a membership of over 600 individuals and families. It is an incorporated society.

It has been in existence since 1973 and in that time has campaigned for the preservation and restoration of the Ranges through direct action in restoration planting, weed control, through interventions on both planning matters and on public works which threatened the integrity of the area. Achievements include initiating and helping secure major additions to Waitakere parkland, such as the Pae O Te Rangi, Pauroa and Lake Wainamu reserves, defending large areas of bushland from subdivision, preventing three rubbish dumps in the Ranges, helping restore the Historic Winchelsea House at Karekare, commissioning numerous ecological studies of the Ranges and obtaining protection for the Ranges through improved zoning. The Society’s Patrons are Dr John Morton, Professor Richard Bellamy and the Rt Hon. Jonathan Hunt. www.waitakereranges.org.nz

Information on the proposed special legislation and a copy of the draft Bill are available at www.waitakere.govt.nz

ENDS

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