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Whether or not the development of a small residential subdivision would affect the character of the Mt Barker landscape dominated hearing proceedings in Wanaka yesterday.
Criffel Station owners Jeremy and Mandy Bell have sought resource consent to subdivide a small portion of their land into seven lots and establish residential dwellings on five of them.
The dwellings would all be built on 750sq m building platforms, and lie on lots ranging from 5365sqm to 7700sqm.
Queenstown Lakes District Council planner Sarah Gathercole opposed the application as she believed the residences would result in adverse effects on the ''rural character'' of the area and would be ''inappropriate''.
At yesterday's hearing, before commissioners Bob Nixon and Jane Sinclair, the Bells' counsel Maree Baker-Galloway argued the ''effects on amenity values are very low, due to the location and clustering in a small area''.
Only the roofs of some of the houses would be visible from Mount Barker Rd, through an existing treeline, she submitted.
''Given that the landscape in question can only be viewed from very limited locations, there can be no evidential basis that any effects ... reach the threshold of 'significant'.
''The proposal will create benefits from what is otherwise unproductive land. It includes significant planting [that enhances] the character and ecological values of the site and sets a positive precedent.''
Council officers disagreed.
Landscape architect Kris MacPherson said her concern was with the tree planting more than the buildings.
She said the trees would be of ''different colours and textures'' and felt ''that was not something that was part of this open grassland''.
''If one considered it from a visual point of view then it would be a new, long, substantial element in the landscape.''
Ms MacPherson said more homes and subdivisions had occurred in the area in recent years, and ''more changes to this open landscape were detrimental''.
Ms Gathercole agreed, and said her concerns were more about ''wider rural amenity effects'' than visual effects on persons.
Ms Baker-Galloway said she would provide the commissioners with a written right of reply by the end of the week, clarifying several points and conditions outlined in the application.
Mr Nixon anticipated the hearing would be closed after that, and a decision made in the coming months.