Anne Gibson

Property editor of the NZ Herald

Developer hits out over delays

Summerset's $120 million retirement village was refused consent at first because the council said it would end the natural coastal character of the peninsula site.
Summerset's $120 million retirement village was refused consent at first because the council said it would end the natural coastal character of the peninsula site.

A retirement village developer spending $500 million in Auckland says building in the city is hard because Auckland Council is extremely slow to process consent applications.

Julian Cook, chief executive designate of Summerset Group which has 2600 residents and will soon have five big Auckland villages, said other councils were faster.

But the council, which initially refused to let Summerset build at Hobsonville, cited many reasons for rejecting the original scheme, mainly effects on the landscape and coastal environment and the fact the land was not zoned for urban activities.

A council spokesperson said yesterday 95 per cent of all resource consents had been processed within the statutory time this financial year.

"In that time frame we have processed 7400 consents," he said. Summerset had lodged two resource consents for a new retirement village in Ellerslie in late September.

"These applications were publicly notified in late 2013. The proposal is for a predominantly residential development in a business zone, which brings with it a number of challenges.

"This consent is being processed and a decision will be made by an independent panel of commissioners following a hearing into the proposal. That will involve the applicant, parties opposed to the development and the council," the spokesman said.

Cook said although big expansion was planned and already under way in Auckland, the company found dealing with the city's bureaucrats long and expensive.

"We went through a struggle through the consenting process," Cook said of the new $120 million Hobsonville waterfront village in Auckland's northwest, which is being launched today.

"It took over a year. The biggest thing is delays and uncertainty; a site in Ellerslie we want to build on, we're still trying to get consent. It's delayed six months. [Council] staff can't get to it. They're too busy," Cook said, referring to Summerset's application to build at 8 Harrison Rd, Ellerslie.

The council initially refused to allow Summerset to develop at Hobsonville because issues arose over zoning, heritage, traffic and the coastal area.

On June 12, 2012, Summerset applied to develop 327 units in one and two-level semi-detached and terraced housing, two three-level apartment blocks and a three-level community block. It wanted to build 22,762sq m or 2.2ha of floorspace on the 7.6ha site and that exceeded site coverage rules.

Consent was refused because the council found the village would have significant adverse effects on the natural character of the coastal land, the big buildings would have visually adverse effects, many trees would have to go, the village was too big and not right for the land which abutted the Metropolitan Urban Limits but was outside those limits.

It was acknowledged the development would provide a high-quality retirement village on a prime coastal setting to benefit residents, families and visitors, but the council said the land was part of Hobsonville Peninsula and the development would end the natural coastal character associated with the location.

The company changed its plans and got consent last year for a 350resident village without having to go to court.

Cook said securing consents for huge new villages in New Plymouth and Trentham took only about three months, a stark contrast to the time taken in Auckland.

Norah Barlow, Summerset chief executive, said the Auckland issue was one of growth and the challenges that accompanied that.

The company was spending $500 million on five Auckland villages to create residences for 1300 people.

"We've built at Manukau and are close to completing our Warkworth village. Now we're commencing work on our Karaka village and look forward to starting our Hobsonville village. We're working with council and looking to finalise resource consent [for Ellerslie] as soon as possible."

Such villages freed up existing places for younger families, easing Auckland's housing crisis, she said.

- NZ Herald

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