Hanmer Springs’ Iconic Conical Hill Under Threat
A proposed fly ride on the iconic Conical Hill in Hanmer Springs has a large group of residents and property owners concerned. The Friends of Conical Hill think the proposed flyride will ‘ruin everything that is special about Conical Hill.’ The group are taking the Hurunui District Council and the Hanmer Springs Pool and Spa to task over the proposal.
Hanmer Springs Pools and Spa (owned by Hurunui District Council) have applied for resource consent from Hurunui District Council to construct and operate the Flyride. The same type of ride was proposed for Taupo but was withdrawn over the same concerns voiced by local residents.
This is a ‘fox guarding the henhouse’ situation, where the decision-maker (Hurunui District Council) gets to decide whether a business it owns and benefits from can build on public reserve land. In this case, the proverbial henhouse is the majestic quiet of Conical Hill, beloved by generations of kiwis. Hens guarded by foxes don’t tend to fare well, hence Friends of Conical Hill are deeply concerned.
Ross Carter, a Hanmer Springs resident and business owner, says ‘the proposed ride breaches several HDC rules and we are deeply concerned about the effects such a ride will have on amenity values, parking concerns, privacy and the peace and quiet currently enjoyed by local property owners and residents.’
Carter continues: ‘Conical hill is an iconic visitor experience enjoyed by generations of visitors for over 100 years who walk the hill for its natural quiet, views and birdlife. Rare and endangered species of birds and geckos are present on the hill. They’ll never survive the construction of a Flyride in the middle of their patch.’
Gavin Martin, longtime local resident, says the Friends of Conical Hill are deeply concerned that ‘Neither the Hurunui District Council (who owns Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa) nor the Pools and Spa themselves have done any research or surveys to see if the upwards of 50,000 people who walk Conical Hill every year like the proposal. Or whether a flyride would ruin everything that is special about Conical Hill.’ Martin also describes public consultation as ‘appallingly bad’, with many residents directly affected not even having been contacted by the applicant or the HDC prior to the application being submitted.
The Friends of Conical Hill (FOCH) comprises over 100 members, including residents, rate-payers, business owners, and bach-owners. We have engaged at our own expense Resource Management experts, a Traffic Engineer, Lawyer, and other experts to represent us at the consent hearing.
With a target of 80,000 riders in the first year, 88,000 in the second year and 97,000 in the third year and with a capacity of 1400 riders per day, the Friends of Conical Hill believe that these numbers in addition to the 50,000 people currently walking Conical Hill will have a hugely detrimental effect on the natural peace and quiet not only of Conical Hill but also the surrounding properties along with parking issues, noise and disturbance to local birdlife and endangered species resident on Conical Hill.
It also sets a dangerous precedent for more commercial development.
Ross Carter says, ‘the HDC and the HSTPS have no social conscience as far as affected residents are concerned. They’re driven purely by profit and growth at the expense of the environment and wildlife, people’s enjoyment of public space, and the mental health and well-being of the public.’
Carter continues ‘We hasten to add that we are not against the proposal itself. We just don’t like where they’re putting it. There are plenty of hills around Hanmer. A flyride can go on any one of the many hills around Hanmer. And it could be more fun too! The proposed flyride will only go at walking speed. Pick any other hill, and they could go faster. They don’t need to spoil Conical Hill to create a Flyride.’
The proposed ride breaches several rules in the Hurunui District plan, including:
•Five of the poles proposed are higher than the maximum height of 8 metres allowed within the Open Space Zone.
•The noise limits for activities within the Open Space Zone would also be exceeded outside the northern and western boundaries of the site, in some circumstances.
•As the application comprises a new activity which is to be established on site, the plan requires carparking. No carparking is proposed as part of this application.
•As the poles and line of the proposed flyride are captured under the definition of ‘building,’ being structures which are more than 2.5 metres in height, they are required to comply with the Hanmer Springs design standards. The poles and line are constructed of steel which is not a permitted cladding material under the Hanmer Springs design standards.
•The part of the site where the proposed flyride is to be located is within an identified slope hazard 4 area.