John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Plan sparks David and Goliath battle

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Melrose Retirement Village. The neighbours' views before and after construction.
Melrose Retirement Village. The neighbours' views before and after construction.

A Tauranga couple whose panoramic views will be impacted by the $100 million redevelopment of Melrose Retirement Village say they were in a David and Goliath battle.

Barbara and James Steele used the biblical reference of winning against the odds during Thursday's hearing of Oceania Healthcare's application to redevelop the Waihi Rd village.

Oceania's plan included four apartment blocks holding 209 apartments, constructing a new care bed wing for 60 people and adding nine villas. It would accommodate 311 residents once the staged development finished in five to seven years.

Mrs Steele told the hearing commissioner Jenny Hudson that it took courage to front up to Goliath. '' But David is brave enough to do so because he considers he has right on his side.''

The Steeles were among the worst affected residents who faced a loss of views and privacy from the proposed two to three storey apartment block closest to the Tekoah Place boundary.

Mrs Steele said the development would have a major impact on their lives. She quoted a newspaper article that said water views in Auckland added an average of 48 per cent to a property's value to justify her contention that the redevelopment would reduce the value of their property.

The Steeles were ''deeply concerned'' about noise and dust effects over the ''eternally long'' construction period of five-plus years. They were not reassured by Oceania's commitment to a building management plan.

''How can anyone manage diggers, bulldozers, trucks, bob cats, pile drivers, pneumatic drills, nail guns, skill saws, concrete cutters, etc, etc.''

Residents' fears that cracks could open up in their homes from vibrations could see Oceania being ordered to carry out a pre-build survey of neighbouring houses so there were no arguments if cracks did appear.

Mrs Steel queried why the redevelopment proposed to reduce Melrose's 110 hospital care beds to 60 non-hospital care beds when the minimum age for Melrose would be 75. ''One would think that more, not less, care beds would be required.''

Speaking for others in Tekoah Place, she said: ''We are not a band of rabble rousers but a group of hard working and caring citizens up against a huge conglomerate.

''Should this preposterous proposal be approved, we would be seeking compensation from Oceania Healthcare.''

Before and after perspectives of how the proposed Melrose apartment building would impact on views from the Tekoah Place house of James and Barbara Steele.
Before and after perspectives of how the proposed Melrose apartment building would impact on views from the Tekoah Place house of James and Barbara Steele.

Their grievances were typical of other Tekoah Place residents, including Ian and Karen Clare who overlaid the proposed apartment block onto a photo of panoramic views from their house. The Clare's evidence showed the building would obliterate their views. ''Suitable compensation should be in order from Oceania.''

The submitters represented themselves and did not employ lawyers or expert consultants.

Oceania's lawyer Vanessa Hamm said it was a fact that there would be an impact on views, largely in Tekoah Place.

However she said views were not protected in the council's District Plan, and Environment Court decisions on landscape visual issues had said there was no right to a view, even although a development needed to have regard to amenity values.

Landowners could use land as they saw fit, provided it met legal requirements. The District Plan talked about overshadowing and the visual dominance of buildings, but not views.
Ms Hamm said Oceania had submitted a comprehensive design and she urged the commissioner not to ''tinker'' with building designs or make a decision based on residents' emotional reaction to the proposal.

It would be completely unreasonable to change the height of the building to a single storey, given the bulk and location standards in the District Plan, she said.

Ms Hamm said it was a great site and the redevelopment would provide a great opportunity for elderly residents to enjoy the views. ''The benefits strongly outweigh the adverse effects.''

The hearing concluded on Thursday and hearing commissioner Jenny Hudson reserved her decision.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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