Subdivision plan seems less likely

A proposed 22-section residential subdivision at Forrester Heights may not go ahead, even if a parliamentary select committee decision to reclassify reserve land as endowment land is ratified by Parliament.

The Waitaki District Council (WDC) proposed to develop a subdivision on a 5.8ha of land in 2006, ostensibly as a way to fund redevelopment of the Oamaru Opera House, but the project was halted when it was revealed that an administrative error in 1937 had wrongly classified the land as a reserve.

Although consents for the subdivision are in place, and the Local Government and Environment Select Committee agreed last month, as part of its Waitaki District Council Reserves and Other Land Empowering Bill deliberations, that the land was not a reserve, WDC chief executive Mike Ross said no decision on how to treat it would be made until the Bill had a final reading.

"The status of Forrester Heights is the same now is it was some time ago. As far as I am concerned we are still awaiting the passing of the legislation.

"It's been on hold because of the delays in Government fixing the stuff-up they made so many years ago."

Although Mr Ross said the land was " always supposed to be an endowment in aid of borough funds", he added that the development environment today was "not what it was" in 2005, when the council first considered the development.

"The economy is in a different place, but the council has not made any decisions on this.

"The options are - to do nothing, sell it as one block of land, or consider whether it wishes to develop it itself. But there is no change in status from council's perspective, apart from awaiting the outcome of the correction of the error made back in 1937."

Waitaki Concerned Citizens and Ratepayers Association chairman Warren Crawford said although he still disagreed with the select committee decision, he would not be surprised if the council did not proceed with the subdivision.

Mr Crawford said the subdivision plans would have little support around the council table.

"It should not even be being discussed as a subdivision. It should be planted in trees to stop the erosion and for people to enjoy.

"In our opinion it was planted in trees, and seeing as the select committee has completely ignored that fact, the Government should do away with Arbour Day, because that's when they were planted - 1895 on Arbour Day."

-andrew.ashton@odt.co.nz