Northlake Wanaka : Plan Change 45

Queenstown Lakes District Council called for public submissions on the Northlake Plan Change by John Edmonds and Associates for the land owner Michaela Ward Meehan. Following is my rushed submission to QLDC;

Thank you for the opportunity to submit on the proposed Plan Change, however I have to express my disappointment at the level of notification of this Plan Change. Plan Change 45 is one of the largest proposals to effect Wanaka both historically and likely into the future.  It may have a larger impact upon Wanaka than previous Plan Changes such as Peninsula Bay and Three Parks yet there is a distinct lack of consultation from QLDC in comparison to those Plan Changes and other capital works such as the Ardmore Street roundabout and car-parking. I became aware of the Plan Change Notification through an article written by the Wanaka Sun newspaper which we received on 25th of August, this despite being an avid reader of local papers with a subscription to the ODT and working actively within the design and building industry.

Wanaka ratepayers are highly interested in the direction of this town so I think QLDC will need to consider the effectiveness and validity of this process if you do not receive a high number of submissions (I suggest you compare the number of submissions against the numbers received for smaller Wanaka issues such as parking on Pembroke Park, Cinema Paradiso and the changes to the Wanaka Library Staff levels).

Despite the lack of time and clear information from QLDC, I do support the idea of the Plan Change and do commend the various land owners for combining together to work towards a cohesive development.

Density

This area of land is within the urban growth boundaries as defined by the Wanaka Structure Plan so it is expected to be developed at some point. However it is the proposed densities that need further consideration.

Zoning D1-D3

I do support the idea of mixed densities and I have no issues with the sleeve of higher density zoning D1-D3 shown to the Outlet Road and the future ‘central road’. However High Density zoning needs to be comprehensively planned and cannot be left to market forces alone, so this proposed zone needs particular research, guidelines and level of control. Wanaka already has some examples of higher density  (although not as high as the density proposed) one has a reasonable level of success, another other not so. The Kirimoko block has been carefully designed and has achieved a reasonable level of amenity, whereas the higher density areas of Riverside park in Alberttown have had no design input or control and is a less than satisfactory level of development.  Therefore the applicant needs to provide additional information and guidelines before a high level of density is approved.

Zoning B1-B5

This zoning makes up the vast majority of the Plan Change however it contravenes the intentions of the Wanaka Structure Plan with its proposed density of 10 dwellings/ha. The Wanaka Structure Plan outlines an appropriate density of 5 dwellings/ha.

The extent of this higher density is inappropriate as it provides blanket suburbia with little visual or physical amenity. This density is higher than the Lake Hayes Estate (8.4 dwellings/ha ‘QLDC District Capacity, 2008) over an area greater than Lake Hayes Estate. It is frequently commented that Lake Hayes Estate is a poor quality suburban environment even with the surrounding natural landscape features. This level of density does not allow for landscaping to mitigate the built environment.

Consideration needs to be given to Wanaka’s growth projections as the most recent study was completed and based upon growth numbers during a boom period prior to the recession (Wanaka Land Demands Study: 2007). The overall density of the Plan Change allows for higher densities than allowed in the Wanaka Structure Plan which was based upon high growth models with a fair amount of additional weight. QLDC and the developer need to consider what employment in Wanaka will support 1,600 odd new dwellings. Studies carried out by QLDC have identified that majority of people decide to live in Wanaka because of the openness and freedom of space, quite different needs than Queenstown. The developer needs to consider the success of their Northlake Stage 1 where the 1 acre lots with the potential ability to be subdivided down to a minimum lot size of 1.800m2, this size of property is obviously highly desirable and is maybe where the market is at rather than a blanket 10 dwellings/ha approach.

My opinion is that Zones B1-B5 are more appropriate at 5 dwellings/ha with the surrounding zones C1–C4 being appropriate at a minimum of 1,500m2 given their location adjoining the Lake and Clutha River. The larger lot sizes adjoining the River and Lake potentially will minimize the impact upon the high amenity of the lake and river edge, but care will be needed to consider the bulk and height of these dwellings.

Traffic

Applying either the Wanaka Structure Plan baseline density or the Plan Changes higher proposed density to the site will have a significant impact on traffic within and outside the development.

Currently Aubrey Road is a highly desirable route into Wanaka for both cyclists and pedestrians with little available alternatives. As an Alberttown resident I have been commuting by bike on Aubrey Road for the past 8 years and are aware of many regular walkers and cyclists that the proposals Traffic Study does not reflect. Both Wanaka Primary and the Holy Family School have spent much time encouraging cycling and walking and there are regular family groups that cycle from Alberttown and its surrounds into school, particularly outside of the winter months. Looking at the proposals ‘Traffic  Generation and Distribution’ projections, in the morning and evening peak hours there will be a car entering the intersection of Aubrey Road and Outlet Road every 2.5 seconds (24/minute) which will have a significant impact upon the enjoyment and safety for cyclists and pedestrians.

A strategy on how to maintain a safe route into town needs to be developed before the Plan Change is consented.

Green Spaces / Walking and Cycleways

The Wanaka Structure Plan has long paid much lip service to maintaining green open spaces and linkages. Subsequent Plan Changes such as this one often refer to the Structure Plans intent for Green spaces and linkages in order to ‘tick the box’ but the reality is once a Plan Change is approved the Green spaces and linkages do not make it into the development plan. A good example of this is the Three Parks Development where the discussion documents and application material often referred to this objective but looking at the District Plans ‘Three Parks Structure Plan’ (12-171: May 2007) it is obvious this objective is lost with the Green Spaces and Linkages being piecemeal and token gestures with little amenity.

Plan Change 45 shows 5 vague suggestions of cycle and pedestrian routes connecting to the surrounding river corridor and ‘sticky forest’ but how they connect to green spaces and linkages within the plan change area and whether these notions remain meaningful and provide the desired objective is highly questionable.

Again the applicant needs to provide specific information on how they intend to satisfy this objective and ensure that it continues through the process to achieve a asset for both the development and wider community who may pass through the development.

Conclusion

I am generally supportive of the comprehensive combined Plan Change. More thorough analysis and design solutions are needed in the following areas;

  • Fairness of the Notification process in reaching the wider community.
  • Specific design approach and guidelines for proposed High density areas.
  • Reconsideration of the suburban blanket of 10 dwellings/ha with little amenity and more up to date analysis of growth projections/ demographic and market demand.
  • Consider the bulk and height of properties on the fringe of the Lake and River.
  • Strategy to provide safe alternative travel and leisure routes for pedestrians and cyclists both through and adjoining the Plan Change area.
  • Strategy to provide high amenity Green Spaces and linkages within the Plan Change area and practical connections beyond the site.

I am concerned that the Plan Change notice found on the QLDC website limits the ability to make further submissions to only those who ‘represent a relevant aspect of public interest (eg a community association or environmental group) or have an interest in the plan change that is greater than the general public’.  This indicates the intention is to not run a democratic process and I ask why QLDC want to exclude the rate paying public of Wanaka? Is this new policy of QLDC that will apply to all significant development of Wanaka and does this have any legal grounding? With this limitation of submissions and the poor level of notification you will not receive feedback from a more general cross section of interested individuals.

Wanaka Town Centre Character Guideline

The Wanaka Town Centre Character Guideline was formally adopted by the QLDC Strategy Committee last Tuesday so it is now an operative document. Although it has no statutory standing it will inform future versions of the district plan particularly in terms of bulk and height limits within the town centre.

You can view the document here.

My hope is that it will help tie in all the QLDC capital expenditure in and around the town centre with a common language and quality of elements and materials. There are two recent examples of where this would have been beneficial but unfortunately has not been carried through by the council itself;

  1. Due to delays in the roundabout on Ardmore and Brownston Streets, the council shifted the budget to the burying of power cables along Brownston Street, which also required new light poles along Brownston Street. The Town Centre Character Guideline references timber light poles (the Wilson pole) in at least three sections noting the importance of consistency in fittings that are non-period specific. However the trend to expedite the now at the expense of the future prevailed as the community board approved the council’s proposal to use octagonal steel poles that the guideline had specifically identified as being phased out. The reason given was that the timber poles are more expensive but I believe the small number of lights needed that this would have been a minimal cost in the scheme of things and somehow QLDC found the budget for these as these timber light poles have been utilized along Frankton Road leading into Queenstown. How can the council expect developers to buy into a better quality environment for the town centre when they are not prepared to do it themselves?
  2. The second example is the controversial speed humps along lower Ardmore Street. These have been on the radar for some time after being fleshed out by the Transport Strategy and the Town Centre Strategy so there is no issue whether they should be there or not. The issue I have is that the Town Centre Strategy and the Guidelines both identified that there needs to be both a comprehensive masterplan and consistency of materials and design. Neither the masterplan nor standard detailed designs of raised pedestrian crossings have been completed.

The council may argue that the Character Guidelines were not complete when this work was scheduled but this work has been in the pipeline for some time and the council need to fully adopt them if they expect the private developers to follow. The guidelines and strategies developed by the council are great, the big challenge is getting the various council department heads down to the worker on the street to buy into this vision, quality outcomes have now joined the timelines and budgets with equal importance.

Resource Consent Nightmares

Never expect a Resource Consent Application to go smoothly even if you expect it to be a mere formality. A recent application demonstrated this.

A proposal in Queenstown required Resource Consent where on a sloping site we were excavating more material than allowed by the zone threshold. All the relevant information was submitted and approved by the council engineer, only to find that the planner had an issue with the location of the building. Although the design complied with the District Plan in regard to setbacks, the planner noted that recently it was council policy to take the setback from the inside of a right of way.

Nowhere in the District Plan was this demonstrated, so I asked to see the Council Policy Statement or Notice that surely all the planners must have received to implement this policy, but no there was no such thing. This is a problematic, if much effort, time and expense is invested in a design that satisfies the Rules of the District Plan but is then stopped by the Councils own in-house set of rules, I can see some massive bun fights are in the making. Fortunately our only infringement in the ’revised’ setback was the garage, which is a ‘controlled’ activity. This was a relatively easy addition to the resource consent to satisfy, or was it? Unfortunately no, the council saw the infringement as dangerous as the garage might cast a shadow upon the Right of Way that serves one adjoining neighbour. So more effort was required to prove that in summer there may be some shadow but in winter when frost or snow may build up, the garage did not cast a shadow. We got there in the end but the additional time and money involved was entirely unpredictable and unpleasant for my clients.