Invermay opposes church neighbour

AgResearch is locking horns with the Exclusive Brethren over plans for a new church on the Taieri Plain.

The church, designed to accommodate dozens of parishioners at regular gatherings, and up to 1495 on rare occasions, would be built on a 5ha block of rural land at 326 Factory Rd if approved.

The proposal has prompted opposition from some neighbours, including AgResearch, which owns the Invermay agricultural research campus and farm next to the proposed church site.

Environmental planner Graeme Mathieson, of Auckland, appearing for AgResearch, told yesterday's consent hearing the church's arrival could be followed by ''reverse sensitivity'' complaints aimed at Invermay.

That could happen if AgResearch sought to establish new activities as-of-right that caused noise, dust or odour, of if it sought consent for new activities close to the church in future, Mr Mathieson said.

If consent was required, the church's presence meant it could object, potentially leading to a costly and time-consuming opposed resource consent hearing, he said.

Such a hearing could also be used by ''anti-research'' individuals or lobby groups ''as a platform to oppose research-related activities'', he said.

''This would add significant costs and delays to any such project, and provide an uncertain outcome for AgResearch,'' he said.

Mr Mathieson urged the hearings committee to decline the application, or at least include a ''no-complaints/no objections'' covenant as a condition of any consent.

The church's representatives had indicated a willingness to accept such a condition, Mr Mathieson said.

AgResearch's submission was among 11 received - seven opposed, three in support and one neutral - following public notification of the church's proposal on August 15.

Two other submitters expected to speak at yesterday's hearing, both indicating they were in opposition to the development, could not attend, but reiterated their concerns about wastewater management and traffic safety.

Earlier at yesterday's hearing, church member Matthew Williamson, of Dunedin, told those present the church wanted to construct a larger, more modern facility to cater for an expanding Brethren congregation.

The Exclusive Brethren had operated from a site at 81a Glenelg St for nearly 25 years, but had struck problems in the past with neighbours expressing worries about traffic and noise.

The church's Dunedin congregation had grown from 95 to 155 in that time, and was expected to increase to 230 over the next 20 years, he said.

At the same time, the congregation had gradually shifted south, away from the central city. Two-thirds of members now lived in Mosgiel and Fairfield, he said.

The proposed new site would cater for daily services of between 50 and 160 parishioners, as well as larger regional gatherings of up to 700 Brethren every third Sunday.

The church also wanted permission to host up to 1495 parishioners twice a year, to cater for international gatherings and other exceptional events, Mr Williamson said.

However, such events would likely occur much less frequently, as the last one of that size in Dunedin was about 10 years ago, he said.

Much of yesterday's hearing also centred on the development's ability to cope with stormwater and wastewater requirements, and the impact a large influx of vehicles to the church would have on the surrounding roading network.

Environmental engineer Derrick Railton, a consultant appearing for the church, said he was ''very comfortable'' stormwater and wastewater requirements could be managed.

The church would seek Otago Regional Council consent to discharge stormwater into an existing drain on site, and deploy an on-site wastewater disposal system, he said.

Traffic engineer Andy Carr, also appearing for the church, was also confident the roading network could cope, despite submitters' concerns about inadequate sightlines at the church's entrance, safety at the Factory Rd-Puddle Alley intersection, and inadequate on-site parking.

Mr Williamson told the hearing the church's 160 car parks would be enough for most services, and a special traffic management plan would be in place for the largest gatherings.

Yesterday's hearing adjourned for a site visit and the church's written right-of-reply will follow.

The Dunedin City Council hearings committee - Crs Kate Wilson, as chairwoman, David Benson-Pope and Lee Vandervis - would then deliberate before issuing a decision.

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