Couple's silence irks locals

A recommendation to approve a private plan change permitting nearly 1400  new dwellings on land...
A recommendation to approve a private plan change permitting nearly 1400 new dwellings on land near Wanaka (pictured) has angered residents in the area including (from left) Barry South, Noelene Pullar and Jan and Bruce Paulson. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
The Queenstown couple behind the Northlake development on the edge of Wanaka declined to discuss it with the Otago Daily Times yesterday.

The director of Queenstown company Southern PR, Fiona Woodham, issued a press statement on behalf of Michaela Ward Meehan and her husband, Chris Meehan, but a request for an interview was rejected.

''I have to say both Chris and Michaela are very media shy.

''That's just the way that they are.

''And I do know that from having dealt with them previously they really don't like to be upfront, you know?''

The recommendation by commissioners Lyal Cocks and David Whitney to allow a plan change paving the way for nearly 1400 new houses on the outskirts of Wanaka was made public by the Queenstown Lakes District Council yesterday.

A nearby resident who joined the legal fight against the plan change said he had never met the couple and described them as ''elusive''.

He would have preferred to have been informed of their intentions as the proposal progressed, and he believed an access road into the subdivision had been achieved ''through the back door''.

Aubrey Rd resident Jan Paulson believed Mrs Ward Meehan had bought her property when prices dropped.

''And now she's come back.

''She's got no interest in the community, no interest in how the community works or looks. All she's interested in is making some money.''

When asked if the scale of the proposal might require the couple to be more accessible to the media, Ms Woodham repeated the couple were ''quite private people and they prefer to just work behind the scenes''.

''And that's genuinely what they are like.''

The couple operate several Auckland-based companies under the name of Winton Partners - Winton being the town where it is understood Chris Meehan comes from.

The Companies Office shows Michaela Ward Meehan to be the sole shareholder and director of the various Winton Partners companies, none of which appear to mention Chris Meehan.

While Mr Meehan attended the six-day hearing into the plan change in Wanaka in February, Mrs Ward Meehan was not sighted by the ODT reporter who attended.

It has been reported previously Mrs Ward Meehan, who is Danish, was an Olympic sailing competitor.

In 2000, Australia's Sun Herald described Chris Meehan as someone who was young and ambitious who ''wants a slice of Australian real estate'', and The Sydney Morning Herald reported in 2004 Mr and Mrs Meehan had as guests at their wedding Princess Mary of Denmark and her husband, Prince Frederik.

Princess Mary, who is Australian by birth, was previously Mr Meehan's personal assistant.

Earlier this year, Mountain Scene reported that Winton Partners NZ Ltd bought prime waterfront development land beside the Hilton hotel complex at Kelvin Heights and was selling off some sections.

Mrs Ward Meehan had recently shifted her family from Sydney to Queenstown, the paper said.

She is also the developer for the existing 64-lot Northlake subdivision - most of which were presold.

• Several submitters spoken to by the ODT yesterday were surprised they had not been made aware the recommendation had been made public.

QLDC communications manager Michele Poole said submitters were being emailed yesterday afternoon ''but the decision isn't official until it's accepted by the council and that is normally the trigger for advising submitters of the outcome''.

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