Opposition to Lake Wanaka lodge plans

Outstanding natural landscape concerns are at the heart of opposition to a proposed development...
Outstanding natural landscape concerns are at the heart of opposition to a proposed development near Wanaka’s Damper Bay by United States businessman Peter Thiel. IMAGE: SUPPLIED
Environmental groups are setting their sights on an American billionaire’s plans to build a luxury lodge on the shores of Lake Wanaka.

Public submissions closed last week on United States billionaire entrepreneur and venture capitalist Peter Thiel’s plans to build a luxury complex on a 193ha property owned for six years by him and his husband at Damper Bay about 10 minutes’ drive from Wanaka.

Of the six submissions received by the Queenstown Lake District Council three are opposed to the development and the other three request changes be made to the proposal.

Those opposed to the development are the Upper Clutha Environmental Society (UCES); the Longview Environmental Trust and John May; and the Environmental Defence Society.

The Otago Regional Council, Upper Clutha Tracks Trust and Guardians of Lake Wanaka are the other three submitters.

UCES secretary Julian Haworth said the ‘‘large scale’’ development was inappropriate in an area designated as outstanding natural landscape and an area already recognised as being under development pressure.

The long stretch of buildings, plus up to 36,800 cubic metres of earthworks over 7.4ha, would not meet proposed district plan rules governing adverse visual effects and cumulative development, he said.

Mr Haworth acknowledged the couple’s plans to undertake ecological and biodiversity enhancements and said there was also the potential for economic gains for the district if the proposed tourist unit buildings were used in the manner described in the application.

However, there had been no offer of an open-space covenant, or any other type of protection, to prevent future development of the site, so there was no guarantee landscape character would be retained, he said.

In its submission, the Environmental Defence Society said while efforts had been made to integrate the buildings into the landscape, the proposal would introduce built elements into the landscape, reducing the level of natural and rural character of the site

If the natural values and open character of the site were not protected then the application should be declined on the basis it was an inappropriate subdivision, land use and development, the submission said.

In his application for the Longview Environmental Trust, Roys Peninsula resident John May, whose property neighbours Mr Thiel’s, said the proposed lodge would be highly visible from Lake Wanaka, the Glendhu Bay Track and Wanaka-Mount Aspiring Rd and would be also be highly apparent at night because of lighting.

The prominent nature of the proposal would significantly detract from the natural character and landscape of the area and affect those who used Lake Wanaka and the Glendhu Bay Track, which formed part of the nationally significant Te Araroa trail, Mr May said.

In its submission, the Upper Clutha Tracks Trust asked that access direct to Damper Bay should be provided but that this access was unlikely to be offered by the applicants due to privacy concerns.

Instead a realignment of the existing Glendhu Bay track would instead be a good option for environmental compensation without the associated privacy concerns.

Both the Otago Regional Council and the Guardians of Lake Wanaka requested measures be taken to stop any additional deterioration of the water quality in Lake Wanaka, particularly in Damper Bay.

In its submission the Guardians said the proposed enhancement of streams and wetland areas were likely to improve the quality of run-off from the site into the lake. However, baseline measurements and ongoing monitoring of water quality and biodiversity needed to be undertaken before the project.

A date has yet to be set for a hearing on the application.

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