SHA approved amid strong opposition

Lake Hawea township - showing bare land in the top half of the photograph beyond pine trees,...
Lake Hawea township - showing bare land in the top half of the photograph beyond pine trees, where the special housing area is proposed. Photo: Mark Price

A controversial special housing area at Lake Hawea has been approved by Queenstown Lakes District councillors, amid strong community opposition and the possibility of a legal challenge.

It was standing room only as councillors debated the proposed development in front of a packed public gallery at yesterday's full council meeting.

The development has faced strident opposition from the community, through feedback to the council, a petition and public statements.

Council planners recommended the 400-section special housing area (SHA), proposed by Universal Developments Ltd, which is owned by Wanaka developer Lane Hocking, go ahead, subject to conditions.

Speaking during the public forum, Hawea Community Association vice-president Jennifer Rumore accused the council of disrespecting residents.

"Your choice of SHA as a mechanism is distressing our community.''

Adding that the process looked like a "dog and pony show'', she also raised the possibility of a legal challenge, or a complaint to the Ombudsman.

"These are desperate measures for people just wanting to have a simple, small community.''

Lake Hawea is represented on the council by Quentin Smith, Calum MacLeod and Ross McRobie.

Of the trio, Cr Smith and Cr MacLeod voted against the motion, as did Cr Scott Stevens.

Cr Stevens said the council had been "guilty in the past of being developer-led, and I think once again we're being developer-led on this''.

He wanted growth addressed through existing mechanisms.

Cr McRobie said it was a hard decision, but councillors were elected to make "good, strong decisions for the district, not the popular ones''.

He said the proposal ticked the boxes in terms of increasing affordability, which meant he would back it. He was one of eight councillors to vote for the proposed development.

Cr Valerie Miller said she had been very "anti-development'' in Queenstown, but in the past year had learnt that as much as people might want to cap development, "we're not in a position to do so''.

"I've seen SHAs in Queenstown that have broken my heart, but the reality is that people want to move here, and we can't say 'No you can't'.''

Cr MacLeod described the decision as the hardest he had had to make since being elected to the council.

"It ticks a lot of boxes.''

But he found it was "too much, too soon'', and wanted a more robust process.

Cr Penny Clark said she was concerned the district was becoming "topsy-turvy''.

Lake Hawea resident Jason Kelly said during the public forum that the proposed SHA gave him and his family their first "glimmer of hope'' of being able to buy a house in the place they loved.

"It will change many people's lives, not just ours.''

The proposal will now be presented to Minister for Housing and Urban Development Phil Twyford for consideration.

Lake Hawea Community Association chairman Paul Cunningham said yesterday the decision was "still sinking in'' but it appeared Lake Hawea residents would "just have to live with it''.

He did not rule out the possibility of making representations to Mr Twyford, but it was too soon to say what action the association might take.

Its next meeting is on July 17.

Two of a number of real estate agents who supported the SHA said yesterday they were pleased by the council decision.

They declined to be named because of the strength of feeling against the SHA.

One said the Upper Clutha needed affordable housing but it was up to the council where it should be built.

Mr Hocking was at the meeting and said afterwards he was "very happy''. He hoped some work would begin on site within about six months, but he still had to sign a "deed of agreement'' with the council and get approval from the minister.

Mr Hocking noted while 117 people wrote to the council to express their opposition to the SHA, the town's population was over 2000.

He was "100%'' comfortable with the price of the house and land packages proposed, of between $464,000 and $550,000 for houses of between two and four bedrooms.

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