A plan for Matakana Island that stresses retaining its unique lifestyle has removed the threat of a big chunk of the island becoming an exclusive hideaway for the rich.
The draft plan is about a month away from being signed off by the Western Bay of Plenty District Council and is awaiting final feedback from the island's five hapu.
Controversy hit the early stages of the preparation of the plan when Blakely Pacific Ltd announced it wanted to subdivide its 1920-hectare land holding into 48 lots, allowing for the development of 35 homes overlooking the ocean and 13 with harbour views.
Blakely Pacific managing director Phil Taylor said at the time that the proposal was a defensive strategy because of what could happen with the review of the council's District Plan. The subdivision was what the company could have done as of right under the old plan.
Since then the company announced it was withdrawing from development on the island and was sticking to its core forestry business.
Mr Taylor told the Bay of Plenty Times the company supported the council's approach, which retained the potential to develop Matakana in a "low-key manner with limited residential development sympathetically blended into the timberland landscape".
However, the plan differed from Blakely Pacific's original vision for widely dispersed development. It said development constraints and the operational requirements of forest managers meant it was probable that a clustered development pattern was preferred.
Mr Taylor said if there was to be development it made sense to have a pattern more in scale with the island's environment. But the company still did not want to be any worse off than under the rules of 2007. "Smaller areas would be impacted by development. It would not compromise the forests to the same extent."
Island resident Hauata Palmer said the community was meeting this weekend to see if it had any issues with the plan.
Overall he was happy with the plan and the areas that had been identified as being of high, moderate and low ecological importance. The high and moderate ecological areas followed the entire island's coastline, with the highly important areas largely on the sandy forested side of Matakana.
The plan's statements on residential development were pretty much what he had wanted to hear. He did not want to see development closed off totally because it would constrain what hapu wanted to do in the future.
Blakely Pacific's original application could have resulted in houses dotting the northern third of the island's 24km of surf beaches.