Re-filling part of the Three Kings quarry, reducing the number of new residences planned and respecting remaining natural volcanic features - all are victories for the community recognised in the Environment Court's interim decision out this week, a local leader says.
Harry Doig, Puketapapa Local Board deputy chair, said the community was delighted with the decision which challenged Fletcher Residential's original plans, allowed by Auckland Council.
Now, 14 issues must be dealt with and Doig said that would probably mean a far better outcome for the community from the planned $1.2 billion housing development in Winstone Aggregates' quarry at the Mt Eden Rd/Mt Albert Rd intersection.
"We're still grappling with the full implications but it appears to vindicate the community's concerns in many ways," Doig said.
"The quarry should not be more than 9m deep, whereas now it is 17m deep. So that halves the depth of the quarry."
It was ridiculous to be forced to take flights of stairs, or a lift, to get from one level of the former quarry to another under Fletcher's proposals, he said.
"You would have to use a public lift which seems bizarre, or climb six levels of stairs on the south side of the site. Where else do you have to do that? So the court said it should be no deeper than 9m," Doig said.
The court noted evidence of one witness who "was of the opinion that connectivity/integration would be improved if the level difference was reduced from 17m (the equivalent of a 6-storey building) to 6-9m (the equivalent of a 3-storey building)," the decision said.
Doig also praised a potential dwelling number reduction.
"Fletchers was over-developing the site, going for up to 1500 apartments but the court said 800 to 1200 would be more appropriate so that's amazing vindication of the community's concerns.
"Identification of volcanic features - the court has said there's a whole lot of volcanic features that people have not been aware of that have come out fore recently and these things should be preserved," Doig said, referring to the court's references to the Resource Management Act and its consideration of iconic natural features.
The court noted the Three Kings Plan which sought to "recognise and restore the mana of Te Tatua o Riukiuta/Big King and enhance the public open space network."
Doig said a further victory was the court's instruction that the placement of buildings and alignment of open space and interface with the Grahame Breed Dr/town centre be considered.
"This way Fletchers has engaged with the community has been outstandingly arrogant," Doig said, praising particularly Dick Bellamy of the South Epsom Planning Group and Garry Bryant of the Three Kings United Group.
"Members of the two community groups have toiled away and stuck to their guns for years," he said, estimating Bellamy had been working on plans for the quarry for approximately 40 years. "It's an outstanding effort."
Steve Evans, Fletcher Residential chief executive, issued a statement this week saying the company was considering its position.
"We are still evaluating the decision and our next steps. Part of the process involves the appellants' and other parties' response to the interim judgement. Until the whole process is completed there is not much else we can say," Evans said.
The court said Fletcher's advisors "have been amending their proposal on the hoof as issues emerged under the pressure of the hearing, with only limited time for reflection and quality assurance to ensure that the proposed changes are adequately co-ordinated."
That was why it only issued an interim decision, saying it was important all the parties now have the time to consider the changes suggested.
The court listed 14 points and gave the parties involved 20 working days to consider the findings and to file memoranda commenting on the matters.