By George Driver
A massive subdivision on rural land between Puhoi and Warkworth has been proposed, which will see over 1300 hectares of pine forest transformed into native bush.
The land is owned by Asia Pacific International Group, a branch of multi-billion dollar Shanghai-based company New Development Group, which also has a consent to build New Zealand’s tallest inhabited skyscraper (see sidebar page 3).
It is proposing a 207-lot subdivision on the 1828ha block of land on Moir Hill.
The colossal site extends from north of the Pohuehue Viaduct on SH1 to Ahuroa Road and Puhoi village.
The consent application is being assessed as notified and people have until October 10 to make a submission.
Representatives from Asia Pacific International and consultants involved in the project held an information evening at Puhoi on September 27.
Beca consultants senior assistant Jamie Swan said the project would involve protecting and replanting 1312ha in native forest, an area six times the size of Tiritiri Matangi.
The majority of the site is currently pine forest. The development would occur over 10 to 25 years in five stages, as each section of the forest reaches maturity.
Subdivision sites would be relatively small – ranging from 5000m2 to one hectare, with houses clustered on ridgelines.
The development would require earthworks over 46ha of land, involving 800,000m2 of cut and 51,000m2 of fill for road formation. Two soil disposal areas are proposed in existing gullies, requiring realignment.
The Puhoi to Warkworth motorway will transect through the eastern side of the site, close to the existing SH1, and the motorway designation affects about 319ha of the land.
A bridge over the motorway would be built on Moir Hill Road, while Watson Road in the development would have an underpass.
An ecological survey found kauri snails, long tail bats, three species of native gecko and two species of native skinks.
Auckland Council’s biodiversity team reviewed the application and raised concerns about tracts of bush being misidentified and the impact of the forestry harvest on existing native bush. It was also concerned about the impact of the harvest on bat populations and roost sites.
The report said the staging of the development was planned around what was best for the forestry harvest, rather than for environmental outcomes.
The developer requested the development be assessed as non-notified, but Council said it would have a significant impact and ruled it be fully notified.
The land has been zoned as Rural Production in the Unitary Plan, which imposes strict limits on subdivision, but the developer has called for it to be assessed under a legacy ruling, as appeals delay the Unitary Plan taking effect.
Previous landowner Prime Resources had plans for a large development on the site.
An application for a resource consent to subdivide resulted in a 2010 Environment Court consent order that created special rules for the land.
The rules allowed for the subdivision of one rural residential lot for every 8ha of land that is retired from forestry operations and replanted with native bush.
The Rodney Local Board was briefed on the application in June and was able to comment on the notification decision, but did not make any recommendations.
Transport campaigner Bevan Woodward says the development could offer significant walkway opportunities.
The land stretches over at least seven kilometres. Mr Swan says opportunities to create walkways can be explored in the future.
The land already includes a 3.8km walking trail, which runs parallel to the Puhoi River, from Remiger Road to Puhoi village. The track was built in 2014 and forms part of the Te Araroa Walkway. It also includes walkways managed by DOC on Moir Hill. The developer says the tracks will be maintained and improved.
NZ’s tallest tower
Asia Pacific International gained consent to build a 52-storey skyscraper in 2014. The building, on the corner of Elliott and Victoria streets, will be 209 metres high – 23 metres higher than the Sky Tower observation deck. The $350 million project is expected to be completed in 2020.
New Development Group’s website says it has 16 subsidiary companies with over $2 billion in assets, focusing on real estate development, hotel business, wood industry, storage and warehousing, trade and financial investment.