Archive | Development

Peart argues for development no-go areas on coast

Published 4 July 2008

The Environmental Defence Society wants to increase safeguards against urban sprawl along the New Zealand coastline and says the proposed national coastal policy statement will not achieve that aim.


The society has its eye on getting a stronger coastal policy statement than that proposed in a review now going through its consultative phase. The Department of Conservation received 535 submissions and has identified 32 themes in a report covering 2500 pages in 4 volumes. The department’s report back to the minister has been deferred from the end of September to December.


Senior policy analyst for the society, Raewyn Peart, said on Monday the original policy statement, written in 1994, had good intentions but, in spite of them, “we have got coastal sprawl.” Outlining sprawl north of Auckland, she highlighted the area from Waipu through Lang’s Beach & Lang’s Cove, “now carpeted by large houses, and it’s really difficult to see how those houses have been designed to fit into that environment.


Ms Peart was speaking at the society’s launch of the non-litigious NZ Coastal Trust, which has 3 founding trustees – lawyer David McGregor, the society’s president, Gary Taylor, and herself.


Mr Taylor said: "We need a non-government entity that is focused purely on voluntary efforts to protect the coast. A key objective of the trust is to enable public access. It will not litigate on coastal development matters. That will remain the prerogative of EDS."


Ms Peart, continuing her outline of coastal sprawl, said: “Mangawhai is sprawling up to the headland, about 1800 houses have been built and 100 vacant lots are yet to be built on, and soon there may be another 850 houses just across the inlet at Te Arai. There’s been pressure also at Bream Bay to put development up there, so I would argue the existing coastal policy statement has not stopped sprawl.”


She said the houses now appearing on the top of hills behind Russell, in the Bay of Islands, were a typical example of how housing development had changed from the typical pattern of being on the toe behind the beach to making a more overt statement.


“The built environment dominates the natural environment. We’ve got excessive landbanking – soaking up land and predetermining for the next several generations how they want to see the coast.


“At Doubtless Bay there are 3600 dwellings & 2000 vacant sites, but annual pre-boom sales were only about 50/year. A lot of this subdivision is not driven by people who want a bach by the beach but by speculative subdividers. At Mangawhai, sales flew up over the last 10 years as people flicked sections on, with no relationship to end-user demand.”


Against that rush of urban development, Ms Peart said, “We need certainty of protection for those areas of coastal wilderness we still have. At the moment all the coast is up for grabs, irrespective of any coastal management plan or urban design plan. We need firm urban boundaries. We need rural-residential development which restores the coast and keeps rural as rural, not large-lot urban development on the coast.


“We need to keep those buildings off the headlands, the ridgelines & the coastal edge and we need to link supply & demand.”


Ms Peart said the inadequacies of the proposed replacement coastal statement would make protection worse: “There is no clear direction on where development should or should not go, no protection for those undeveloped areas of the coast. We need areas identified on maps – policies just don’t do it. We need to be quite specific about what areas can not be developed.”


Councils had been hard-pressed to do this sort of work, but ought to have more time available as the market in coastal property entered a downturn. Ms Peart said well designed settlements could result from careful mapping with precise restrictions in place.


Planning consultant Greg Hill, who was recently the Auckland Regional Council’s policy & planning general manager, felt the proposed policy statement was too prescriptive: “It uses the word ‘shall’ an awful lot. We do need more certainty, but I think it’s gone too far, got too prescriptive. The document is, by its nature, high level and shouldn’t get down to too much detail.”


Mr Hill saw a danger in prescription resulting in small settlements being developed into larger towns and losing the amenity people went there for in the first place. At the same time there was no need to develop new settlements: “We know, in the rural & coastal areas around Auckland, we have over 40 years’ supply. The question is how do we use that up rather than develop new areas.”


Earlier story:

2 November 2007: EDS analyst sends clear messages on muddy coastal issues


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Attribution: Trust launch function, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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Unusual auction launches new Hopper canals project at Marsden Cove

Published: 28 April 2005

Coastal land is in ever-diminishing supply, and the price of what’s left keeps rising.

Hopper Developments actually goes to the trouble of creating more coastal land, in its canal projects, demand keeps pushing prices for these developed sites up, and director Leigh Hopper goes in search of another site.

They’re not easy to find, they take a long time to go through the planning and consent processes, they take decades to develop and what’s created has to be of high quality. Those factors distinguish them from city apartment developments, where many developers will base their site search mostly on land price, they’re in a big hurry to get through the process, an even bigger hurry to get construction over and done with and where quality is a variable right through the price spectrum.

Earthworks have started for Hopper’s third New Zealand canals project, Marsden Cove, a short way inside the heads on the southern side of Whangarei Harbour, and the first-stage section release will be conducted through a rarely used auction system, the buyer’s choice auction, on-site on Saturday April 30.

Pauanui Waterways opened 1993

The Hopper family company decided on its first canal development, Pauanui Waterways, after creating the first of its Coromandel resorts beside the beach at Pauanui, just south of Tairua. In the first release of Waterways sections, in 1993, sites were priced at $130,000. “You couldn’t buy a section in here now for less than $800,000,” Mr Hopper said in March as he explained progress on the company’s projects.

“There are not many sites left in stage 1 and we’ve got one site left in stage 2 – a large one, 1500m², for $2 million. The rest of it sold out in nine months. When stage 3 is complete we’ll have about 70 sections to sell and we’re anticipating a $1 million entry price.”

A short hop up the Coromandel coast, past a land development the company is doing at Cook’s Beach, Hopper has embarked on the ambitious Whitianga Waterways, which required the State Highway 25 entry to the old township to be shifted to make way for the entrance to the canals from the river and will eventually double the existing township’s population of 3500. Other developments, already happening around the edges of the 230ha Hopper project, will ensure Whitianga grows into a sizeable centre.

New ideas

For each of these projects, the Hopper brains trust has come up with new ideas, reworked old ones that have proven their value overseas or found ideas that haven’t worked so well elsewhere and which the Hoppers feel can be done better.

Stage 3 at Pauanui will get a community complex and, at Whitianga, a community hub combined with apartments, managed apartments or a hotel, shops and cafés will be developed at an earlier stage. It will be a meeting of the ways – just off the new state highway, and with moorings for canal residents to slip across for a morning coffee or to do some shopping.

In each development the ownership structure differs. At Pauanui it was a Hopper project, at Whitianga the company drew in neighbouring landowners after buying a 70ha farm and identifying the site’s potential, and for its new venture, Marsden Cove on the Whangarei Harbour, the company is in a 50:50 joint venture with Northland Port Corp.

Auction changes the launch rules

One feature has been the same so far: Mr Hopper has a high-class house at the entrance of the Waterways at both Pauanui and Whitianga, each with a front-lawn space to land the helicopter. The first of these homes is on the market for $4.5 million while he works on the design of a new home plus cabana, with helicopter garage between.

Will he build a benchmarking home at the Marsden Cove inlet too?

“At Pauanui and Whitianga I’ve been able to pick and choose. At Marsden Cove it will be different. I’ll go to the auction along with everybody else,” he said.

The buyer’s choice auction will be held on site on Saturday 30 April, with simultaneous bidding on all 101 lots. The bidding will start at 1pm and close at 4pm. If there’s no bid on a lot by 2pm, that lot will be passed in. No bids lower than the reserve will be posted. If there are bids on a lot between 1.55 and 2pm, bidding on that lot won’t close for another five minutes. Subsequent bids will be in increments of a minimum $5000.

The auctioneer can go live with any lot at any time – under the hammer, no more code and card, so expensive lots can be got out of the way first. Meanwhile the clock will still be running on other bids. However, if it gets too frenzied, the clock can be stopped.

As an incentive, Mr Hopper said, “We’re offering an auction-only free jetty, worth $25-30,000, to anyone who buys a canal-front property on the day.”

The buyer’s choice auction has been done a few times in New Zealand, but it’s not a common form of auctioning property. Bidders will be required to register, which will give them a bidder code, an information pack and the rules of the auction.

Each registered bidder will get a card, and on it will be space to write their bar code, the lot number and the price they’re bidding. They sign that and it’s their contract to contract. They give their bid to a runner, who takes it to the tent, where chalkies will register the bids for all the lots on a whiteboard, where the reserve price has already been written up. Phone bids will be allowed, but must be organised by the bidder.

“The advantage to buyers in this auction system is that we’re posting the reserve price, possibly in the package, so they can think long and hard about which lot, which price to focus on. Prices will be upward from $660,000 for canal, $240,000 and up for non-canal.

“They will have the benefit of mapping prices on all the lots at one time as opposed to a conventional auction, which would go one site at a time and doesn’t give the bidder the option to change their mind.

“We’re expecting maybe a couple of thousand people there, and I think we’ll make a good event of it. We’ll get people on the site to get a feel for the locality. We looked at an internet auction but we found it would be impersonal.”

Subtle difference to Marsden Cove marina

At Marsden Cove, the development will differ from Hopper’s Coromandel projects by having a marina carved out of farmland, with residential sites between the marina and the harbour.

“This will be the first marina built in the coastal marine area. In essence, marinas are built in the public domain. This is built for exclusive occupation, probably on a licence to occupy. We could do a freehold subdivision – you can’t do that in the Department of Conservation’s domain – but we won’t because we want to take long-term ownership and control of it.

“We want to control activities, while giving public access to pieces. I don’t like excluding the public from things like this. The public creates ambience. It infuriates me when I go to Westhaven. I can’t walk on to those piers. Those people have got private ownership of the public domain,” Mr Hopper said.

The 250-berth marina will have a hard stand, haulout, boat stack and a new public launch facility in a north-facing marine hub, with a 500m access channel from the harbour. “We’ll probably release our berths in early 2006. We’re releasing 101 residential sites in stage 1 in the auction, half of them canal sites.

Innovations to come at Whitianga too

“The future stages will be through a lock. Pauanui and Whitianga have about a 1.5m rise and fall, but at Marsden Cove it’s about 3m. We’re building a weir and a lock. The weir allows the top half-metre of the tide to flow, giving us enough exchange to keep the water quality right, and then the lock will accommodate vessels up to 20m in length and 6m beam. We’ll maintain 2.5m draft up there.”

The Northland development will also incorporate other features included in Hopper’s Whitianga Waterways project such as a shopping centre and some apartments. The existing Whitianga township already has full commercial infrastructure, a shopping centre, an employment base and a history as a tourist centre, so what gets added on in the Waterways project has to be both complementary and quite different.

And, says Mr Hopper, they will achieve both of those aims: “We’re doing a satellite retail centre, where you’ll only be able to drive a boat down the main street, like Venice. We also have plans for a 200-unit retirement village with care facilities. There will be conventional canal housing on the shoulder, two-storey apartments with a flat roof behind, the retirement village will be raised above that and there will be some canal units in the village.

“There’s a bulk retail zone and a medical centre beside it. For the bulk retail you’re pulling customers from the whole of the Coromandel, excluding Thames. People used to travel to Thames every weekend to get their groceries. Now New World has built a supermarket here.”

Whitianga will also have 100 airfield-fronting sections and it will have a marine precinct, with plans for a boat stack to reduce the need for storage on individual sections.

The small retail area will be on an island across a bridge providing vehicle access only to residents of the apartment levels above the shops. That parking will be underground; parking for visitors will be next to the highway.

Boardwalk idea came from Venice

Mr Hopper got this idea of a floating pontoon boardwalk right around the shopping area from the island of Murano off Venice. “You pull up in your fizz boat, nose up right to the boardwalk and the café. We’re going to have at least 1000 waterfront properties in Whitianga, ultimately 2500 household units here.”

Just across the water from the island, Hopper Developments is pursuing a zoning for three-level apartments, but allowing the owners to convert the ground floor to retail at any stage, with a gangway down to the floating boardwalk.

“It’s a novelty, but it will become destination shopping. People will come because of its character. It’s one of the things we want to do differently because we have this character we’re creating over the waterfront.

“In our dream department in Orewa we’ve got guys thinking way into the future to make sure we think it through and get it right.”

The Whitianga development company is 67% owned by Hoppers, the rest by the former landowners, and at both Whitianga and Marsden Cove the company owning the land has a contract with Hopper companies to manage and build the project. “The construction company has standing orders from me: ‘No shortcuts,’ not that they goldplate it,” Mr Hopper said.

“We’re building a community”

He said the family company could make a good living from low-risk housing subdivisions, but in the canal developments “We’re building a community. It’s wrong not to have a retirement village or a shopping centre, and there’s a demand for apartment living where people can get on a waterfront where their entry cost is $900,000 for a shared jetty and an apartment versus $1.5 million for site and house.

“That’s why we’re working now to get a medical facility at Whitianga – the nearest hospital is Thames, one hour away. We don’t necessarily want to own the bricks and mortar, but we’ll lease it out and maybe subsidise it for five years. And having those medical facilities will generate sales we would otherwise not get.”

Despite these neighbourhoods having more than the average suburb’s quota of multi-million-dollar houses and therefore an exclusive nature to them, the Hopper villages also have a feature which breaks down barriers and creates a stronger communal spirit: They don’t have any high fences.

“You can’t put a fence on your road-front boundary, you can out a fence 3m in. On the water side, you can put a transparent 1.2m safety fence. There’s a building line restriction 8m back from the canal and you can’t build between that and the water. We’ve seen some in Australia that got very ugly because they didn’t have those covenants. We finish up with a landscaped, terraced front yard that becomes an attractive feature.

“It’s more social than an urban environment because people come to holiday and actually seek out interaction with their neighbours. You go to the city to be lonely, go to small town New Zealand to socialise.”

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Court supports Environmental Defence Society case against vegetative screening for Canterbury coastal subdivision

Published: 4 April 2005

The Environmental Defence Society has reported its pleasure at an Environment Court decision which rejected screening by vegetation plus building controls as measures to address concerns about residential development well above the existing urban line at Diamond Harbour, on Banks Peninsula.

The proposal by Dunedin-based companies Hawea Trust Ltd & TLEG Ltd was to build 7 houses on 140ha on Mt Herbert, 100m above Diamond Harbour’s existing housing line, mostly below ridgelines but still visible from a wide area, including Lyttelton, across the harbour. The area was identified as an outstanding natural landscape.

The society helped local opponents of the development, which the court found would be precedent-setting for the area.

The society has also made submissions opposing consent for a 14-lot subdivision on 56ha on the coastal cliffs near Ngaiotonga, south of Russell in the Bay of Islands.

Website: Environmental Defence Society

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