Fierce community opposition has prompted one of New Zealand’s richest couples to back down on constructing a helipad in Leigh.
Residents were furious after learning that a helipad was among the plans for a high-end tourism development, believing it would destroy the peace and tranquillity of the area.
The getaway is being developed by Panetiki Ltd, which is directed by multi-millionaires Carmel and Hugh Fisher.
Residents only learned of the helipad plan after members of the neighbouring Danish club got chatting to workers constructing the luxury lodge at 172 Omaha Block Access Road.
The workers revealed that the tourist development included plans for a helipad, which prompted concerned residents to request the property file from Auckland Council.
Residents were shocked to learn that Panetiki was originally seeking a non-notified consent for the helipad, which would have allowed up to 10 landings and take-offs per day, plus two landings and two take-offs during the night – up to 168 helicopter movements a week.
Resident Judson Croft said the topography of Leigh Harbour, creating a natural amphitheatre, and the relatively flat surface of the water would have caused the sound from the helicopters to affect every property in Leigh.
Another resident, Rhys Harrison, made a submission to Auckland Council last month, on behalf of himself and several neighbours, insisting the resource consent for the tourist resort and helipad be publicly notified.
Mr Harrison strongly contested an assessment of the environmental effects of the application by planning consultants Lane Associates, which said the effects on the environment would be minor and that there was, therefore, no requirement for public notification.
But in his submission, Mr Harrison wrote that the noise of helicopters landing and taking off would have had a particularly intrusive effect on the natural environment, “which is characterised by its peace, beauty and burgeoning bird life”.
Residents who felt similarly were preparing to mount a concerted campaign in opposition to the helipad.
But late last week, Mahurangi Matters was informed that Panetiki was abandoning plans for the helipad and any helicopter movements at the site in the wake of the outcry.
Annie Baines, who is the chair of Omaha Marae, which is close to the Panetiki property, said Hugh Fisher had confirmed that the helipad had been deleted from the resource consent application.
She spoke highly of the Fishers.
“Hugh and his wife are actually very lovely people and have kept us in the loop about what they are doing, including walking us around the whole site showing us their plans. They also stop work when we have a tangi,” she said.
Attempts by Mahurangi Matters to contact Carmel and Hugh Fisher for comment on this story were unsuccessful.