$200m equestrian centre planned for Ashburton

Southern Parallel Campus has filed resource consent application documents for stage one of a...
Southern Parallel Campus has filed resource consent application documents for stage one of a large equestrian development next to Lake Hood in Canterbury. Photo: Local Democracy Reporting/ Supplied
Applications have been made to develop a $200m equine stud and equestrian centre next to Lake Hood in Ashburton.

Consent documents for the project have been filed by Southern Parallel Campus with both the Ashburton District Council (ADC) and Environment Canterbury (ECan).

ADC compliance and development group manager Jane Donaldson said the application was received on 7 November and was being assessed by planning staff.

"Under the RMA, the council has 20 working days to make a decision on notification," she said.

Five resource consent applications were also lodged with ECan on 13 November.

Project director Catherine Stuart plans to develop the 65ha of land next to Lake Hood into an international standard equine stud and equestrian training centre.

Stage two would be an SPC Life Skills and Education Centre, the foundation of the project, built on a separate site.

Stuart declined to comment on the active consent process.

According to the consent documents, the equine centre would feature an indoor selling arena, veterinary clinic, stables with 650 stalls and training arenas as well as fields for show jumping, dressage, eventing, and polo training, and grazing pastures.

In was hoped the consent process could be completed in early 2024 to allow construction to start later in the year, for a planned opening in the second half of 2025.

It was estimated the project would create 850 jobs during construction, and once fully operational would employ 160 people.

Stage two, to create facilities for physically disabled veterans, service personnel, and para-athletes, was planned to be completed by mid-2026 and would be subject to a separate consent process.

On social media, Stuart posted that it had been a "long stressful journey, with project pivots to meet the myriad of policies, rules and regulations to achieve the final go-ahead to put shovel to ground and deliver opportunity and benefits to the region".

The project was launched in September 2019 and the start of construction had been planned for 2020, with the opening in the first quarter of 2021.

But Covid-19 put an end to that timeline.

A Covid recovery fast-track consent application was then submitted to the Ministry for the Environment in December 2022, but was rejected by former Minister for the Environment David Parker in July.

Now that resource consent applications have been submitted to the district and regional councils, an Ashburton District Council planning officer would inspect the site and prepare a report recommending whether to process the consent as non-notified or notified, and whether or not it should be approved or refused.

Donaldson said an independent commissioner had been appointed to consider the application and make a decision on notification, to hear any submissions, if required, and to make a decision on approving or declining the application.

Of the five resource consents submitted to ECan, one was for the project's onsite wastewater system and the others were related to initial site works.

ECan consents planning manager Aurora Grant said due to the scale and significance of the proposal, ECan had extended the RMA timeframes and the proposal was being assessed for completeness.

"A decision to accept the application for processing or return the application will be made by December 11."

Jonathan Leask, Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air