Rezoning decision allows subdivision

A court rezoning decision has paved the way for film director Roger Donaldson to subdivide his rural Arrowtown land for luxury housing, despite opposition from neighbours.

The The World’s Fastest Indian writer and director has successfully appealed a Queenstown Lakes District Council decision on its proposed district plan (PDP) that would have stymied the 78-year-old’s plans to develop his 21.6ha property, which neighbours Millbrook Resort.

Mr Donaldson’s appeal in the Environment Court, lodged in 2019, is one of dozens by landowners in the district in recent years seeking to rezone their land to enable more housing.

The appeals, which are the domain of opposing teams of lawyers and experts, have made the development of the district’s latest district plan remarkably drawn-out and expensive for participants and ratepayers alike since it was notified in 2015.

In last month’s final decision, the court agreed with Mr Donaldson’s counsel, Graeme Todd, that issues raised by a neighbour, David Shepherd, about road entry to the property were "irrelevant and/or misleading".

Mr Shepherd was one of a group of Millbrook Resort residents with views over the site, as well as other neighbours, who opposed aspects of the appeal at a court hearing in 2022.

The bare land, used for grazing and hay production at present, was originally earmarked for lifestyle precinct zoning under the PDP, and assessed as having high capacity for development.

However, it was later revised to the more restrictive rural amenity zoning, and assessed as having low development capacity.

Mr Donaldson’s appeal, which was heard by Judge John Hassan and commissioner James Baines, resulted in an interim decision in September that returned the site to a modified precinct zoning with a high capacity for development.

A development of up to 15 homes would be in keeping with the intentions of precinct zoning, and it was not realistic for Millbrook residents to expect the site to remain "unchanged as a semi-rural vista", the decision said.

"It is valuable land that Mr Donaldson is entitled to reasonably use and enjoy."

The zoning requires a minimum 6000sq m section size — with an average of 1ha — and allows homes of up to 500sq m.

Any development of the land remains subject to the council’s consenting process.