Mt Dewar planting subdivision opposed

Mount Dewar, near Queenstown, Photo: Mountain Scene
Mount Dewar, near Queenstown, Photo: Mountain Scene
A proposal for Queenstown's Mt Dewar Station billed as the country's largest commercially funded native reforestation project should be rejected, a council planning report recommends.

Environmental enterprise Treespace Queenstown Ltd applied in February for consent for a 56-lot subdivision on the station, accompanied by the planting of more than 140,000 trees and the building of new public walking and biking trails.

In his report on the application, Queenstown Lakes District Council senior planner Andrew Woodford said although the proposal's ecological aspects would be "overwhelmingly positive", it would adversely affect the area's landscape and rural character.

It was "inappropriate" in its current form, and the environment was incapable of absorbing the development given the scale and nature of the proposal.

In a peer review of a Boffa Miskell landscape assessment of the proposal, consultant landscape architect Helen Mellsop concluded the development would be "reasonably difficult to see" after 10-15 years, provided tree plantings on Mt Dewar's front face were successfully established.

However, domestic fire smoke and vehicle movements would indicate "domestication", which affect people's perception of the naturalness and remoteness of the landscape.

Although development within an outstanding natural landscape was not prohibited in the operative or proposed district plans, the scale of the proposal was "at or beyond the threshold for what the site can absorb without causing more than minor adverse effects", Ms Mellsop said.

The application, publicly notified at the applicant's request, will be the subject of a hearing by independent commissioners from September 4 to 6.

The council has received 92 submissions on the proposal - 56 in support and 35 opposed.

Since being lodged, the application has been tweaked with a series of amendments.

Changes include removing one chalet, a reduction in building coverage for six chalets from 625sqm to 350sqm, a reduced maximum building height for all chalets, and an acceleration in the removal of wilding trees.

Treespace founder Adam Smith told the Otago Daily Times in January the station consisted of "1780ha of unproductive high-country farmland burdened with a significant wilding pine problem and threatened by pests".

The proposal features 43 cabins and 10 chalets for residential and visitor accommodation, and a lodge with facilities for events of up to 60 people and accommodation for 20 overnight guests.

There would also be more than 50km of publicly accessible hiking and biking trails, including 19.7km of new trails.

Mr Smith said the project's goal was to restore 99% of the station's ecosystem through large-scale native reforestation, while using 0.01% of the land for buildings and low-impact tourism activities to fund the reforestation and the area's ongoing management.

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