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Talks to resolve legal appeals holding back the planned Three Parks development have moved behind closed doors as negotiating parties try to avoid an Environment Court hearing.
The Queenstown Lakes District Council recently discussed the authorisation for mediation over appeals to plan change 16, Three Parks, at a council meeting in Queenstown from which the public was excluded.
Four appeals against the council's plan change 16, Three Parks, were lodged with the Environment Court in April.
Items on a council meeting agenda deemed to be related to commercial matters can be discussed in secret under a provision of the Local Government Act.
Queenstown Lakes deputy mayor John S. Wilson told the Otago Daily Times councillors had decided to authorise QLDC staff to conduct mediations with the parties which appealed the Three Parks plan change.
Mr Wilson sat as chairman of the council, during the meeting when the Three Parks plan change was discussed, in the absence of Queenstown Lakes Mayor Clive Geddes who was on a visit to China.
It was not unusual "at all" for closed door mediation talks to be held between council representatives and developers, particularly in regard to appealed resource consent decisions, Mr Wilson said.
"It benefits everyone to avoid costly court [proceedings]," he said.
The QLDC underwent a lengthy period of public consultation for the Three parks plan change, prior to a five-day publicly notified hearing last September.
The QLDC subsequently adopted the plan change for the massive 100ha commercial and residential development on the outskirts of Wanaka, which includes provision for a secondary town centre and more than 750 housing units, last December.
Three Parks developer Willowridge Ltd appealed several conditions in the plan change - primarily seeking to amend restrictions regarding the size of the development's planned retail precinct (effectively a secondary town centre for Wanaka).
Neighbouring businesses to the planned Three Parks, Firth Industries and Ballantyne Investments, have also appealed alongside Mt Cardrona Station Ltd - a competing property developer working towards a 131ha village above Cardrona township, authorised by way of a different council plan change.
Willowridge Ltd director Allan Dippie said a two-day mediation hearing had been scheduled for next week to discuss Three Parks.
The Environment Court had set down a "fairly tight" timeframe for the parties to discuss their respective grounds of appeal in lieu of a court hearing, Mr Dippie said.
Willowridge had been planning for Three Parks for about eight years and wanted to proceed with construction of the project, he said.