Saturday, 24 September 2011

PURAKAUNUI ENVIRONMENT GROUP INC.

by Jim Glass, Chairperson, PEG

The Purakaunui Environment Group (PEG) Incorporated held its 2011 AGM
on 22 September.

Due to unfortunate ill-health the outgoing chairperson was unable to
deliver a report, however the following is a transcript of a
'catch-up' recently delivered to households in the Purakaunui area
reporting our activities.

This last year has seen the culmination of our efforts over six years
to oppose what we consider to be inappropriate development on Potato
Point. There has been some success.

Six years ago there was to be a subdivision that involved three houses
of considerable size along with their related buildings and tanks .
That proposal morphed later into a two house version. Neither found
favour with the Dunedin City Council (DCC). The developer appealed the
DCC decision. We joined the DCC in defending their decision in court.
The developer lost his appeal in both the Environment Court and the
High Court.

End of story? No -- but then we didn't expect it to be. First there
was good news. Local crib owner John Williamson purchased the southern
flank of Potato Point and expressed a desire to redevelop some
vegetation on it -- something we're keen to help with.

Then it was back into the fray when the developer, and owner of the
northern slopes of the headland, applied to build a barn and stock
yards. This application was not notified by the DCC so no submissions
could be made. The DCC approved the barn and the stock yards but with
conditions -- one of them being that the barn could not be turned into
a dwelling.

The developer objected and the DCC compromised to some extend by
allowing for the possibility that the barn could be enlarged and the
stock yard extended -- but the barn still couldn't be turned into a
dwelling without it going back through 'due process' at the DCC and
probably being notified.

The developer then applied for permission to build a house. This was
notified by the DCC, and PEG made submissions expressing our concerns
regarding the house, its siting and impact on the landscape. In fact,
the house that was proposed in this application was better in almost
every respect than the previous designs -- lower, built into the hill
and using materials that would make it less visually intrusive.

Despite our reservations the DCC approved the house and its site (in
the patch of bush almost exactly on the summit of Potato Point). There
were conditions attached to the consent: a covenant protecting the
bush apart from the 450 sq m immediately surrounding the house; no
'ancillary structures' more than 25 sq m to be erected on the site;
and no more than two structures of less than that area to be erected.

We still weren't keen on the idea of any houses on the site. We felt
-- and still feel -- that building on headlands, particularly on this
piece of the coast, is both unnecessary and visually intrusive, so PEG
appealed that DCC decision to the Environment Court.

While we waited for the court process to begin the northern flank of
Potato Point was sold to new owners, Jon and Lynley Fergus.

Part of the process leading up to an Environment Court hearing
involves court ordered and organised mediation between the parties to
see if agreement can be reached and a court hearing avoided. Also,
with a new owner, it was an opportunity to see if there might be any
common ground between them and us.

We were constrained by two major factors. First, the District Plan
gives the council discretion to allow a second building close to an
existing one in a rural zone (subject to some conditions) and we were
unsure whether the consent conditions would prevent this. Second,
taking the case to the Environment Court is an expensive business
involving lawyers and expert witnesses and tens of thousands of
dollars. Our previous experience at court had alerted us to this
reality. Our best option was to lay our concerns on the table at
mediation.

If we could not reverse the council's decision to allow one house, we
wanted to limit the possibility of there being more than that. This
has been successful; the DCC and the new owner agreed that the wording
of the conditions of consent relating to ancillary structures be
altered by removing the word 'ancillary', as it was not their
intention to build another house on the property.

We were also anxious to confirm right of access around the base of the
headland, already theoretically conferred by a paper road, the problem
being that nobody knew quite where the paper road was, or even if all
of it still existed. The owners agreed to walking access and the three
parties agreed to split equally the costs of surveying and marking the
walkway. As expected, it was found that parts of the paper road had
crumbled away and in some places had completely disappeared into the
sea. The paper road has now, in effect, been reinstated by creating a
20 m wide right-of-way easement for walking access around the
perimeter of the Fergus's property, and there are marker poles in
place.

There are conditions attached to the right of access which mean that
people won't, for example, be able to walk on the property during
lambing, between 1 September and 15 November. Also, how to get to the
'beginning' of the easement, part way around the point, still has to
be resolved.

So after six years nobody has got exactly what they wanted -- and
perhaps that is the way it should be. We're happy that there aren't
three massive houses on the point along with their garages, sheds and
tanks, and we're happy that we have successfully 'raised the bar' in
terms of what sort of housing is acceptable on headlands of this sort.

We are also very pleased to have forged an understanding with the DCC.
Until now the issue of a consent was often the first that locals knew
of a development on a prominent site in the area. That has changed,
and PEG will be in a good position to have a say in future proposals
where we believe we can contribute to a better outcome.

We'd like to thank all of you who have been supportive over the last
few years. Your assistance and support has been really valued.

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