Anne Gibson

Property editor of the NZ Herald

Property matters: Quarry plan close to chief's heart

Fletcher executive says Three Kings, which the firm has earmarked for a $1b project with 1500 homes, is his 'hood'.

Bernie Chote. Photo / Dean Purcell
Bernie Chote. Photo / Dean Purcell

'This is my hood," says Fletcher Development's general manager, Bernie Chote, standing at the southern end of the Three Kings Quarry looking across to Te Tatua a Riukiuta (Big King).

"I used to run over there," he says, pointing to the Three Kings Athletic Club's sportsground, "so this is my rohe. I've been here 45 years."

If Chote and his division's owner, Fletcher Construction, get their way, up to 3500 people could live in a new Auckland urban precinct which will begin rising out of that pit next year.

The quarry - off Mt Eden Rd and now about 34m deep - will be substantially filled to make that vision become a reality. So the boss behind the plans is making the point that he gets people's feelings about this because he is a local, he understands, he is embedded in the area and has a stake in its success.

In the next few weeks, the Fletcher Building subsidiary will apply to Auckland Council for a controversial private plan change, seeking to have the zoning changed from quarrying to terrace housing and apartment buildings.

If successful, that could allow between 1200 and 1500 freehold townhouses and apartments to rise, some up to 10 levels around the Mt Eden Rd rim near the Mt Albert Rd intersection, as well as new links to be created from the housing through to the shopping centre, maunga and sports grounds, in a project which could be worth nearly $1 billion.

That figure comes from multiplying maximum residence number by an average estimated $800,000 price tag, although no prices have been disclosed.

Price is certainly not something Chote wants to discuss, except to say he expects purchase tags to be on a par with the $2 billion 2600-residence Stonefields, where apartments sell for $500,000-plus each.

"Price is about diversity of product. You can't fill this up with two-bedroom places. It has to be twos, three, fours and with a diverse community you make it more sustainable.

"Around 85 per cent will be apartments and 15 per cent terrace housing of two to three levels."

The plan change due in March or April will be notified, giving people the chance to respond.

Although not immediately visible from Mt Eden Rd because of a tree-covered boundary, the quarry has been a sore point in the area for years.

Winstone, celebrating 150 years in New Zealand this year, began working there in 1927 but other companies also quarried there.

When signals emerged a few years ago that the quarry was coming to the end of its natural life, some locals wanted the entire 21ha of Fletcher and Crown land to become a park.

"We've been through lakes," Chote says of other calls for the quarry to filled with water.

"The iwi isn't interested in that but a wetland scenario will be incorporated into the new development."

Since 1995, community organisation Three Kings United Group has decried dust, noise, trucking and dewatering of the Three Kings aquifer, affecting properties in Mt Eden, Epsom, Three Kings, Mt Roskill, Sandringham, Royal Oak and parts of Hillsborough.

Chote hopes the new draft masterplan will resolve many issues but says a Special Housing Area fast-track application can't be made because of the proposed building heights.

He says the scheme establishes links to the Big King, showing images of view shafts and paths winding out of the housing estate up to the maunga.

"Existing pathways along the side of the maunga will be upgraded and a series of new pathways are proposed to provide better accessibility," the draft masterplan says.

"The proposed sports fields and wetland parks in the development are linked to the greater Three Kings open space network via existing and new linkages," it says.

A new town square will be created linking the town centre, Fickling Centre and Three Kings oval with the estate "creating an integrated commercial/recreational/residential precinct".

A new bus stop is proposed at the intersection of Kingsway and Mt Eden Rd.

Garry Bryant, president of the Three Kings United Group, said he had sought but not received that draft masterplan for the scheme.

The project has been designed by San Francisco-based, New Zealand-born landscape architect James Lord of Surfacedesign, working with Melbourne's dKO Architecture and planning experts Tattico.

"We've been trying to get it for 20 years," Bryant said.

But Chote said the masterplan had only been drafted and was shown to the community on the weekend.

* Fletcher wants feedback on its scheme to go to berniec@fcc.co.nz.

Local leaders criticise project for lack of imagination

Three local leaders have called for changes to Fletcher Construction's Three Kings plans.

Garry Bryant, president of the Three Kings United Group, Auckland councillor Cathy Casey and Harry Doig, the Puketapapa Local Board deputy chairman, have raised issues.

Bryant and Casey are angry, saying the proposal gazumps the board's precinct plan, some months away.

They say the apartments and houses look like military barracks and the scheme lacks imagination, has no solar power or water recycling, would create traffic congestion, clog up Mt Eden Rd and does not create good walking links up to the Big King.

Casey spent two hours at the project's open day on Saturday and said people were left confused, not knowing who had come up with the plan and thinking it was the council.

"How dare Fletcher's dictate what the council is going to do? It's your land, public land," she said of plans for the council-owned sports fields.

Doig said the board sought better connections with the Big King and the shopping centre.

As the board member responsible for the area's precinct plan, he praised the open day where Fletcher revealed its plans, but said the community and the board wanted more from the firm.

"Integrating the residential development with the retail and making sure there's improved access to the Big King is more of a concern than pure density numbers, regardless of whether it's 3000 or 4000 people. Fletcher has made some progress," Doig said.

"The board wants to look at the bigger area - the council land, retail and Housing New Zealand places and make sure that all comes together in a really good and exciting way. Fletcher has made a good start."

A Fletcher spokesperson said about 250 people attended the open day which went "very well".

On the drawing board

Three Kings quarry redevelopment
* 21ha of land off Mt Eden Rd
* Fletcher owns 15ha, Crown owns 6ha
* 1 million-1.3 million cubic metres of fill needed
* Quarry pit to be filled up to 15m below Mt Eden Rd
* 1200-1500 townhouses and apartments to be built
* 7.5ha of land to be set aside for open space
* Expected timeframe: 10-15 years to complete
* 16-page draft masterplan outlines scheme
* Private plan change application due in March or April.

- NZ Herald

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