A controversial Northland luxury housing development on a pristine eastern coastline goes before independent hearing commissioners appointed by Auckland Council on Monday.
Northland hapu Te Uri o Hau and Darby Partners have applied to create 46 sections for what is expected to be luxury housing to be built next to the Tara-iti Golf Course at Te Arai near Mangawhai.
Objectors have fought against the plans, saying people and household pets would cause "catastrophic effects" to endangered shore birds and their breeding grounds, particularly the fairy tern and the dotterel.
But the developers say no building would be visible from the beach and are offering 172ha of land to Auckland Council or the Department of Conservation for a public park or reserve.
Objectors say the site is the last remaining piece of untouched east coast and development would result in the loss of the area's remote, natural and non-urban character.
The developers have applied for a private plan change and the hearing is at Auckland Council's Rodney office.
A spokesman for the developers said the plan change concerned 616ha of commercial pine forest alongside Te Arai Beach, acquired by Te Uri o Hau a decade ago as part of Treaty of Waitangi redress.
The Department of Conservation, the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society and the Environmental Defence Society had withdrawn their earlier objections, the spokesman said.
"Main features of the private plan change application are 46 new house lots, extensive environmental upgrading and the proposed gifting of some 170 hectares of land to Auckland Council to help form a new regional park of about 250ha towards the southern end of the beach," the spokesman said. The golf course, announced last year by Ric Kayne, is being built on land sold to him by Te Uri o Hau, and is a permitted activity.
The course is due to be finished late next year and the spokesman said this would create jobs, spending in the local community and attract high net-worth tourists.
Those in favour of the development say the plan change is consistent with the existing subdivision provisions in the District Plan, will support the economic development of Te Uri o Hau and the creation of a new public reserve will guarantee public access to the coast and avoid development close to the water's edge.
The plan change would place sensitive environmental areas - which are now unprotected - in public ownership.
If public agencies believe the entire area should be protected it is unfair to expect Te Uri o Hau to shoulder that burden, a wetland will be protected and native species of vegetation will be planted, those backing the changes say.
Objectors said the development would benefit few, the council should buy the entire site instead and make it a regional park, the forest should be returned to commercial productivity and Te Arai should be protected for future generations in its natural state.