Designation of Cape Wanbrow land settled

The designation of land on Cape Wanbrow earmarked for a controversial residential development has finally been clarified by an Act of Parliament, but the Waitaki District Council will ''start with a clean slate'' deciding what to do with it.

Waitaki Mayor Alex Familton made that clear on Thursday when he said ''the past was history'' and he wanted the council, which owned the land and wanted to develop it, to consider all options as soon as possible.

He had discussed with council chief executive Michael Ross the possibility of including any proposals in the council's 2013-14 annual plan, which would be open for public consultation.

However, Mr Familton was not sure that would be possible at this stage because the council was already well advanced with its annual plan.

The 22-section subdivision, with sections costing more than $300,000, was proposed in 2006 by the council on 5.842ha of land looking north over Oamaru harbour, the town and coastline.

It hit difficulties when it found the land was designated ''reserve'' in 1937, which the council said was a mistake because it had been set aside in 1885 as ''reserved'' for endowment land for the benefit of the Oamaru borough.

As endowment land, the council would have been entitled to develop the land and sell it, within certain restrictions imposed on the use of proceeds. To clarify the situation, the council approached Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean to sponsor a local Bill to designate the land endowment reserve. That Bill passed its final reading in Parliament this week, 98 votes to 22.

Mr Familton was very pleased the land designation had finally happened.

''It now gives us the opportunity to take the whole process back to council and, if necessary, to [public] consultation.''

The last decision the council made regarding Forrester Heights was in July 2011, when it decided to spend no more money on the development.

Mr Familton said that effectively put the project on hold.

The council started the project in 2006, with $3 million in profits earmarked to help pay for the $10.2 million refurbishment of the Opera House in Oamaru. But since its inception it has been dogged by disputes, including that over the status of the land.

Individuals and groups, including the Waitaki Ratepayers and Concerned Citizens and the Friendly Bay Society, opposed changing the designation and maintained it was intended to be a reserve and could not be subdivided.

-david.bruce@odt.co.nz

Forrester Heights Reserve

The Waitaki District Council maintained that this land's status was caused by a 'clerical' error, and required a Parliamentary 'stroke of the pen' fix.

But if this was such a straightforward matter, then why did 22 members vote against it?