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Shipping Container Art Not 'Common Sense'

Allowing a shipping container to be displayed on private property because it is deemed public art “is not common sense”, says Hamilton City Council’s Planning Guidance Unit Manager.

Yesterday (13 March), the Environment Court issued a decision to allow a shipping container to remain on a private section in Flagstaff, stating it is public art. This follows Council issuing an abatement notice to remove the structure in August last year.

Council received multiple complaints from people in the area who said the structure made the neighbourhood resemble a dump site. In response to complaints, Council visited the site and classified the container a building under the District Plan, requiring a resource consent. When no resource consent was applied for, Council issued a notice to remove it.

Planning Guidance Unit Manager Grant Kettle said the decision has highlighted that the definition of public art in Hamilton’s District Plan may need a refresh to make sure it is achieving good outcomes for the city.

“Common sense tells us that the structure on this site is a shipping container, first and foremost. The Court’s decision to disregard this fundamental element is disappointing for the community and shows us that our definition is open to interpretations that may lead to outcomes the community does not want.”

The shipping container appeared shortly after submissions were received from members of the public in opposition to a residential development proposal on the site. The proposal included a duplex dwelling on the site, which is zoned as natural open space and has a proposed Significant Natural Area (SNA) under Plan Change 9.

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The resource consent for the development proposal has since been declined in January 2024 by an independent commissioner based on impact on the SNA, visual amenity, and landscape effects. The property owner has appealed this decision to the Environment Court.

Council is currently considering its legal options including any appeal against the decision and proposing changes to the District Plan. Cost to ratepayers will be a component of this decision.

Mr Kettle said this did not mean that anything goes in terms of public art on private property in the city.

“Anyone considering placing public art on their property should check the rules in the District Plan and have a chat to us to understand their obligations.”

Read the Environment Court decision on the shipping container here 
Read the independent commissioner decision on the residential development proposal here

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