Nine appeals have been lodged to remove tighter restrictions on rural subdivision which Auckland Council introduced in the Unitary Plan.
The Environment Court appeals are seeking to change rules which allow rural land to be subdivided in exchange for protecting and restoring native bush and wetlands.
The rules were created by the Rodney District Council and the Unitary Plan Independent Hearings Panel (IHP) supported retaining them, but Council added significant restrictions in its final decision.
The appeals are seeking to reinstate the original IHP recommendations.
The main contentions are the maximum number of lots which can be created in exchange for rehabilitating and/or protecting native bush and wetlands.
Council’s decision significantly reduced the number of subdivision sites that could be created on rural land.
It argued that stricter rules would prevent the fragmentation and scattered development of productive rural land.
Warkworth-based Parallax Surveyors and Planners and Kaipara Flats planner Better Living Landscapes were party to a joint appeal, along with three other businesses and developers.
Parallax director Tracy Smith said the subdivision rules were one of the most significant changes Council made to the Plan, which is why it had attracted a high number of appeals.
“I don’t think the rules are particularly fair,” Tracy said. “I don’t think they’ve backed up their case with strong, thought-out evidence.”
She said the rules wouldn’t increase the amount of subdivisions on rural land, as the appeals are seeking to retain the existing rules.
Better Living Landscapes director Karen Pegrume said the new rules reduced the incentives and benefits of environmental restoration and Council ignored the evidence put before the IHP.
Herons Flight vineyard owner Mary Evans has supported the appeal and said people should be able to choose whether to subdivide their land.
“A lot of this area isn’t productive rural land [despite being zoned Rural Production] and I don’t think it’s right for someone in Council to decide what farmers can do with their land,” Ms Evans said.
Having the option of subdividing rural land could help make horticulture and viticulture financially sustainable in areas with poor soils, she said.
Kawau Island appeal
A major Kawau Island landowner has also appealed the rural subdivision rules.
The appeal has been lodged by Zakara Investments, which represents the Spencer family, who own 906ha, or about 44 per cent of the island.
It is understood the land was owned by the late Peter Spencer, of the wealthy Spencer family, which owned the Caxton Printing Works.
In its initial submissions on the Unitary Plan, Zakara Investments asked for “provision for appropriate development opportunities on Kawau Island”.
Its appeal said the cap on the number of residential sites which can be created under the rehabilitation scheme should be removed.
Zakara Investments is directed by Auckland businessmen Allan Wadams and Arthur Young, while Peter Spencer’s son, Michael Spencer, is a shareholder.
Mr Wadams and Mr Young also own Rimanui Farms, which bought the 13,800ha Taupo farm known as Lochinver Station last year.
Other groups appealing the rules include Cabra Rural Developments, Cato Bolam Consultants, Houghton Family Trust, Man O’ War Farm Ltd and Radiata Properties.
Developers Te Arai Group and Omaha Park Ltd have also supported appeals on the rural subdivision rules. Te Arai Group represented the developers at both the north and south of Te Arai, while Omaha Park was behind a failed attempt to create a large development in the south end of Omaha in 2006.
Valerie Close appeal
A group of Valerie Close residents had also made an appeal to the High Court seeking to live-zone 75ha of land in the area.
The land has been zoned Future Urban in the Unitary Plan and would be able to be developed from 2027, but the group had made a submission calling for it to be live-zoned.
The appellant said the IHP failed to give sufficient reasons for its decision, or take in to account the evidence it submitted.
A hearing date for the appeals hasn’t been set.