Environment Court Decision Paves Way For A Connected Neighbourhood
Planning for safe and effective roads in Hamilton’s new neighbourhood of Peacocke has been confirmed after the Environment Court dismissed an objection from the owners of one of the properties involved.
The Environment Court decision has dismissed, in all respects, an objection by MN and ME Shaw under the Public Works Act.
The decision followed a hearing on 24 May and 25 May 2021 and subsequent site visit. The Shaws were objecting to notices to take land to establish a road as part of the Southern Links network. The network was developed following the joint Hamilton Southern Links Investigation by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and the Council between 2011 and 2013 and will also cater for public transport, pedestrians, and cyclists.
The Court found the taking of the land was fair, sound and reasonably necessary, and noted in its decision the significant consultation and discussion throughout the process. It was satisfied that the Council acted in good faith and endeavoured to be fair but was constrained in doing more by the position taken by the Shaws.
The decision confirmed the Shaws had been involved in consultation since 2013, did not oppose the road, provided evidence at a hearing at that time, and did not object to the final designation. An affidavit from Mr Shaw in 2019 noted they ‘initially raised no opposition to the roading project, provided that the plantings and other improvements on our property were to be taken care of in the roading process and provided we would be properly compensated for land lost.’
The Court was satisfied the initial evaluation process for the road was wide-ranging, comprehensive, and robust, and was in accordance with recognised good practice. Adequate consideration was given to ecological effects and optional routes. The Court was satisfied Council gave adequate and genuine consideration to alternatives, including an alternative later identified by the Shaws, and observed the Council was clear in its desire to work in good faith throughout the process.
The property owners currently allow the public to visit a bird park established on the land. The Court confirmed that the acquisition of the land would not prevent this from continuing. Council has undertaken to provide access to parts of the land outside the road to allow the Shaws and the public to continue to enjoy the bird park.
The decision means Council can progress work on the east-west road in Peacocke as well as associated stormwater management to continue development of much-needed new housing in the growing city. All land required for the designation developed in 2014 has now either been secured by Council or is subject to an agreement for its acquisition. Some negotiations on compensation are continuing, with the option of determination by the Land Valuation Tribunal if agreement cannot be reached between landowners and Council.
Peacocke is being built with the support from the Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund, made up of a $180.3M 10-year interest-free loan and $110.1M of Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency subsidies.
The Peacocke programme will deliver a new bridge, a transport network that caters for public transport, pedestrians and cyclists, parks, and strategic water, wastewater and stormwater networks. Other work includes protecting and enhancing the environment, including the extensive gully system, opening the area to the Waikato River, and investigating community facilities which are also important parts of creating a new community in Peacocke.
When completed, Peacocke will be home for up to 20,000 Hamiltonians.