Evidence on subdivision's traffic effect criticised

Otago Regional Council staff and a solicitor acting for private developers have locked horns over whether a proposed subdivision in Outram should proceed.

The disagreements came as a Dunedin City Council hearings committee listened to a second day of arguments for and against the subdivision proposed by Balmoral Developments (Outram) Ltd.

The company, together with an adjoining landowner, wants to build 24 homes on 6.7ha of rural land beside State Highway 87, Holyhead Rd and Mountfort St.

Balmoral has applied to the council for a plan change that would amend the district plan and result in the rural land being rezoned for residential use.

The Otago Regional Council opposed the plan change, arguing in a written submission the site was unsuitable because of the risk of liquefaction and settlement in an earthquake.

Speaking yesterday, ORC resource planner liaison officer Sarah Valk told the hearing vehicle access from the site to the state highway was also ''potentially unsafe''.

Alterations would be needed to improve sight distances for motorists leaving the subdivision and turning on to the state highway, making it ''inappropriate'', she said.

She was also concerned the plan change would expose people and property to risks from natural hazards, and create a precedent for development on other parts of the Taieri Plains with similar natural hazards.

ORC engineering manager Ramon Blair also said claims groundwater at the site would be 5m below ground - providing a buffer zone that reduced the risk of liquefaction - might also be ''overly optimistic''.

The groundwater level was likely to be closer to the surface, but limited investigation of the site meant knowledge of it was ''abysmal, really'', he said.

Asked by committee member Cr Andrew Noone if enough was known for a decision to be made, Mr Blair said there ''probably isn't''.

Engineering solutions were available that could address the potential liquefaction problems, but without knowing more, solutions in one area risked creating problems elsewhere, he warned.

However, Balmoral's solicitor, Phil Page, took issue with evidence about transportation effects, questioning why the ORC was attempting to ''second guess'' the New Zealand Transport Agency, which did not oppose Balmoral's plans.

''That's just mind-blowing, frankly,'' he said.

''Why the ORC wants to express a view on that is completely beyond me, and you should set that [evidence] aside.''

The ORC had accepted stormwater from the subdivision could be discharged into the nearby Taieri River - over the existing floodbank - resolving one key issue for the developers, he said.

However, evidence about exposing people and homes to additional risk if the site was developed was some of the vaguest evidence he had heard, Mr Page said.

''I don't think that evidence was helpful to you at all,'' he said.

Earlier, council consultant planner Emma Christmas - who recommended consent be declined - said she was satisfied adverse affects from the plan change could be mitigated.

Engineering solutions could also address any threats from natural hazards, although more discussion was needed on geotechnical issues, she believed.

That left the loss of high-class soils at the former market garden site to deal with, as there was ''no dispute'' some would be lost if the subdivision proceeded, she said.

That was contrary to the council's district plan, which strove to protect high-class soils, meaning the committee would have to consider how to balance the competing land uses, she said.

The committee would also have to decide what weight to give to the council's new spatial plan, which sought to encourage infill development over urban sprawl outside residential-zoned areas, she noted.

Mr Page believed the key issue remaining was whether the committee needed more geotechnical information from Balmoral before making a decision, or whether the work could wait until a future resource consent hearing.

Balmoral's plan change request was the second to be considered by the committee, after Two Note Ltd sought to rezone 7.7ha of rural land on Formby St for 28 houses.

Committee chairman Cr Colin Weatherall adjourned the hearing yesterday and could not say when a decision would be released.

- chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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