Pushing the boundaries

This week commissioners Dave Whitney and Lyal Cocks set Wanaka on an expansion path unlikely to be matched by any other town in Otago in the near future except possibly Queenstown.

Their Northlake plan change recommendation adopted by the Queenstown Lakes District Council on Thursday, puts a 220ha bulge in the northern boundary of the lakeside town although it is likely to be decades before the area is filled with houses.

The 2013 popuation of Wanaka was 6471 and there will be similar number of opinions about where the town is headed. In the wake of this week's decision, Mark Price sought out the views of four Wanaka residents with a place in the town's past and a stake in its future.


 

District councillor
Lyal Cocks bought 1.6ha of land in Wanaka in 1994, while serving in the navy in Wellington.

''I wish I bought 54'', he joked to the Otago Daily Times this week.

Born in Omarama, and now deputy mayor of the Queenstown Lakes District, Mr Cocks was one of the two commissioners who gave the thumbs-up to plan change 45, the rezoning of Northlake land on the outskirts of the town, to allow the formation of about 1400 new sections.

He seemed surprised this was news, given the idea of housing extending all the way to the Clutha and Cardrona Rivers had been around for a dozen years.

The ''Wanaka 2020'' workshops in 2002 led to the ''Wanaka structure plan'' and to what Mr Cocks considered was a well thought-out and orderly expansion of the town as far as the natural boundaries of the Clutha and Cardrona Rivers.

Mr Cocks said the commissioners' decision was ''relatively consistent'' with the structure plan, differing mainly in timing.

''We all thought [Northlake] was going to be later, but they have chosen to go ahead to provide some certainty now.''

Mr Cocks said the Wanaka 2020 process delivered a ''very strong message'' that development was not wanted along the west side of Lake Wanaka, to protect the view, ''but everyone felt there was room for development further to the south and the north.

''And we had the natural boundary of the Cardrona and the Clutha to provide a de facto urban boundary.''

''What [the structure plan] does is it preserves the lake, it preserves our compact township; so you could sit down here and think you are still in a village ...''

''The only difference will be is that over the hill to the east will be the new commercial centre at the Three Parks subdivision with big-box stores ...''

Mr Cocks said there were retailers in the village ''anxious'' about the impact of the new commercial centre, but it would be added to only in stages, with ''health checks'' on the town along the way, to monitor its impact on other businesses.

He believed there was a ''desire for big box'', including a new supermarket, but there was no room in the town centre and Wanaka was fortunate to have space further afield.

''We've got lots of space that's usable. It's not on the side of a mountain like in Queenstown.

''And that will cater for our town for many years.''

Mr Cocks said there was infrastructure in place or plans for it to cater for the expansion and the council would receive development contributions to pay for it.

There was water available for Northlake, there was a sewerage line nearby and the next thing on the council's agenda was a review of Wanaka's transport strategy.

He believed the council could head off Queenstown-style congestion.

''We've got to avoid that happening here.

''That's why we have got to look at our town centre, where we are going to be parking and make sure we get ahead of the game on public transport, cycleways and pedestrian links so we don't get congestion.

''Some people say we've got it now,'' Mr Cocks said.

''We haven't, really.

''We haven't got the problem like Frankton.''

Mr Cocks believed it was likely the relativity between Wanaka and Queenstown would remain as the two towns grew, although Wanaka might begin to catch up.

''We might be bigger, but we will never be the same as Queenstown.

''We can learn from Queenstown.

''We learn from their transport issues.

''Having this rezoning and this planning in place, you don't get ad hoc ...''

He said the expansion of Wanaka would continue to be driven by demand for sections and it could be 10 or 15 years before Northlake began filling up with houses.

Only one block of land - between Ballantyne and Cardrona Valley Rds - had yet to be rezoned in the way anticipated in the structure plan.

But Mr Cocks believed Wanaka now had enough land for new developments to last 60 years or more.

Northlake neighbour
As an architect, Ken Warburton is used to visualising the end result of plans drawn on paper.

And what he foresees from the Northlake plans he has seen is ''a sea of grey roofs'' replacing the pine trees that stretch from the road below his Mt Iron Heights home into the middle distance.

Eventually, Mr Warburton's impressive view to the north and west will have 1400 new houses added to it.

He had no problem with an expanding Wanaka.

Originally from Dunedin, he had earned a living from designing Wanaka houses since 1973 and had been a permanent resident since 2001.

What he did have a problem with was the density of houses in the Northlake plan.

While there were some one-acre sites along Aubrey Rd and in the part of Northlake already well under way, there were many other parts where sections would be 700sq m.

The commissioners, he noted, described this as ''medium density'' housing.

He called it ''high density'' and likened it to Coronation St - with houses too close together to allow for trees.

He was one who provided the plan change hearing with both written and verbal submissions.

''I said to them: ... Do you actually have a vision of what this is going to look like?

''And they looked at me like I had horns coming out of my head.''

Now, he said, he could not see why it took six months for the two commissioners to come to a decision because they barely changed any of the developers' proposal.

''I can't see why they couldn't have done it in a week.''

He expected it would take a long time for the subdivision to fill but had no doubt it would because Wanaka ''is one of the nicest places on the planet''.

''I guess those of us who have lived here or been involved here for many years, we don't really want it to grow too much.

''But you really can't hide it away for yourself.''

''You can't stop people wanting to live here.''

He expected major traffic problems between Northlake and the town centre and could not understand why the plan change was given consent before the council reviewed its transport strategy and while the council was in the process of reviewing its district plan.

''I don't know why they were in such a rush to do this job.''

Mr Warburton said he was ''pro-development'' but ''it's how it's done and this whole thing seems to be out of context and time.''

He considered the commissioners had ignored the advice from the urban designer and planners it employed who suggested about 700-750 houses.

Mr Warburton said those affected had the opportunity to appeal to the Environment Court but he noted only a small number of objectors helped pay for the lawyer at the hearing and an appeal would ''take an awful lot of money''.

''I haven't done anything about it yet.''

Long-time resident
Loris King lives in Wanaka, front and centre.

The window of her lounge on Brownston St opposite Pembroke Park has a picture postcard view of the lake and the snowcapped mountains beyond.

You might expect with her prime location secure, Mrs King would be reluctant to see a whole lot of expansion going on.

But she is not.

Mrs King was also front and centre during Wanaka's first boom in the 1960s after the Haast Pass road to the West Coast opened.

''When the Haast opened, it just made Wanaka just boom,'' she told the Otago Daily Times this week.

She and late husband Bill could see the opportunity presented to Wanaka and started the Kingsway Tea Lounge.

It became a regular stop for tour buses - 21 buses calling for three-course lunches some days.

Now, after the tea lounge, and the wine shop, and the real estate business and the teaching career, Mrs King is a reliable submitter on any matter where submissions are invited.

She was not the slightest bit surprised by Wanaka's growth.

''We could see that Wanaka wasn't just going to sit like this.

''And this is what's the sad thing for some people.

''They would come and want a nice quiet place on the outskirts of town, as they called it, not realising Wanaka was going to grow.''

The structure plan has the Clutha and Cardrona Rivers as the suggested boundaries for the town.

But Mrs King believed even these natural features would not halt the town's expansion.

''You can't put up a barbed wire fence and say you are not allowed to have any more houses.

''You can't stop people wanting to come where they want to be.''

But despite the growth, she did not believe Wanaka would be another Queenstown ''... if we keep our eyes open and don't allow these great big buildings on the foreshore''.

She submitted the Northlake rezoning should go ahead, provided sections were not too small, and believed the infrastructure to handle the increased population would grow with the subdivision.

She would like to see a new arterial road built near Mt Iron to allow traffic destined for Northlake to easily avoid the main town centre.

And she would like developers in the CBD to be required to provide parking.

But that is a whole, long, detailed submission in itself.

Businessman
Simon Stewart is one of those who first came to Wanaka as a child on holiday and now calls the place home.

As a resident of Riverside Rd, he expected he would become quite familiar with the noise and dust of construction at the nearby Three Parks subdivision.

It was something the former musterer and farmer from Southland seemed reasonably relaxed about.

''You have to tolerate that.

''You don't make an omelette without breaking eggs.

''You can't stop dust when you start working big machinery. Not totally.''

Mr Stewart was equally relaxed about the prospect of a doubling of Wanaka's population in the next 25 years.

''People do aspire - to use that word used so often around here - to living in a place like this.

''You can't physically stop people coming here to live.

''So, with that in mind, I don't disapprove of new subdivisions.''

Mr Stewart considered, however, they could be better planned.

He described some lacking through-roads as ''insular'' - a particular inconvenience for those who want to use ''shanks's pony'' or cycle.

He would prefer subdivisions linked together more directly.

''They don't attach these subdivisions very well to previous subdivisions.''

Mr Stewart operates his Lake Wanaka Cruises business from the ''log cabin'' on the lakeshore.

Despite much of his trade being with tourists, he expected such businesses to benefit from Wanaka's population growth.

''Stagnation is not an option. You can't just say: 'Let's keep it the way it is'. More people will come and so there will be more demand.''

He believed the impact of the big box stores proposed at Three Parks was likely to slow development of the existing town centre.

''You can't stop Ronald McDonald and the big striped bucket coming to town. It's going to happen eventually.

''It's just a matter of the numbers and when the numbers stack up, they will be here.''

Mr Stewart said a doubling of Wanaka's population did not concern him.

''But in 50 years will it double again?

''It doesn't just carry on, on the same plane.''

- mark.price@odt.co.nz