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‘They Are Family’: Campground Boss Pleads Case For Residents

The boss of a popular Nelson campground has made an impassioned plea for long-term residents - many of them elderly - to be able to remain at Tāhuna Beach Holiday Park.

The hearing for Nelson Airport’s private plan change request and notice of requirement began on Monday and will run for the rest of the week.

Hanging over the hearing is the question of what may happen to 115 long-term residents at the Tāhuna Beach Holiday Park if the request is granted.

On Tuesday, holiday park chief executive David Pattinson made a case for the long-term residents to the commissioners overseeing the hearing.

“A lot are elderly, most live on superannuation or benefits, and they are family,” he said.

“Our residents have no place to go, and to be pragmatic, the holiday park needs their contribution which is around 20 per cent of our income.”

The airport is seeking to gain the necessary planning and zoning framework to extend its runway to improve safety, and better cater for future growth and next-generation, low-emission aircraft.

However, swathes of Tāhunanui, including the holiday park, would also become subject to new restrictions imposed by new air noise boundaries.

Pattinson said he was “gravely concerned” about the impact of the development restrictions would have on the park in a highly competitive and modern tourism environment.

“The proposed changes around building permissions are draconian and completely unnecessary, and will have a dire effect on our viability,” he said.

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“We will be left to wither on the vine…

“I do understand the importance and contribution of the airport, we just need to find a way of co-existing, and this is not it.”

The final recommendation on the airport's application to allow for a runway extension could be influenced by how reserve management law is interpreted.

The holiday park’s village of long-term residents has operated in accordance with Nelson City Council’s Tāhunanui Reserve Management Plan and so didn’t need a resource consent.

But in 2019 it was discovered that because the Tāhunanui Reserve has not been vested as a reserve under the Reserves Act (1977), the management plan had no effect and therefore the holiday park needed a resource consent.

The holiday park has since been working to obtain a resource consent, but it has also received legal advice that it would be unable to gain a consent if the zoning and designation changes sought by the airport are granted because of new activity restrictions imposed by aircraft-related noise.

This “unique” circumstance means that the park’s long-term residents are facing eviction.

Because the current village is unconsented, the airport’s counsel advised the commissioners on Monday that the plight of the long-term residents cannot be considered in their deliberations.

But the holiday park's counsel, Nigel McFadden, disagreed with that guidance on Tuesday.

He argued that because the council had for several years treated the land like it was vested under the Reserves Act, and developed its management plan accordingly, that the plan should be upheld and the village of long-term residents at the holiday park was a permitted activity.

“The reality is that these permanent people are recognised by council, they have their permanent homes here, they have done so with the encouragement or perhaps even the sanction of the council, and they’ve been there for many years. They’re entitled to be protected.”

On Wednesday morning, Helen Atkins, chair of the panel of commissioners, acknowledged the "extreme frustration" felt by the holiday park around its village of long-term residents.

She said that if the panel was going to make a determination on the legality of the village, it would do so in discussion with the council as it might be necessary for the council to share the legal advice it obtained that the holiday park needed a resource consent and not simply a certificate of compliance.

The Nelson Golf Club, which could close because of the runway extension, the Tāhunanui Business and Citizens Association, and other individual submitters are expected to present to the panel on Wednesday afternoon.

Local Democracy Reporting is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air

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