Council approves land exchange

The Queenstown Lakes District Council has approved an exchange of land at Hawea Flat to create a public track, and acknowledged the support of the farmers involved.

After a public hearing last week, a hearings panel recommended the council approve an exchange of nearly 1.7ha of the Hawea Domain recreation reserve with nearly 0.19ha of private land owned by Laing Dairy so a track could be formed between Camp Hill Rd and the domain.

Using road reserve had been considered in the past, but it was not possible to form a safe track for walkers and cyclists there.

A hearing was held because farmers Bill and Cathy Allison raised concerns about the inequity of the land exchange. The Allisons lease part of the domain for grazing and believed a ''fairer swap'' should be negotiated.

The panel acknowledged the difference in the area being given by the council to Laing Dairy and the area received for the walkway, but said it was countered by the value of the proposal to the community.

The recommendation to approve the land swap was subject to conditions including that: one share in the Hawea Irrigation Co be transferred from QLDC to Laing Dairy Ltd; Laing Dairy provide a potable water supply to the domain; and a covenant be registered on the new track title preventing the public complaining about legitimate farm activities on the Laings' land.

During the public forum at Thursday's council meeting in Wanaka, Wanaka Community Board chairwoman Rachel Brown gave a ''public statement of thanks'' to the Laings for agreeing to enter into negotiations over the land swap.

Deputy mayor Lyal Cocks later endorsed her comments.

''We haven't had this opportunity in the past with private landowners ... and we should acknowledge that he [Craig Laing] has come to the table and enabled this negotiation and this access, which is going to be of significant public benefit.''

In approving the swap, the councillors amended the recommendation to include their acknowledgement of the landowners' support. The Minister of Conservation's approval is still required for the land swap to proceed.