Property editor of the NZ Herald

Beach battle: community group v developer, council

Petition at Te Arai over road changes - developer, council hit back

A community group from Te Arai north of Auckland has claimed public access to a popular surf beach is under threat but developers say changes won't bar people from the beach and Auckland Council says all consents issued are legal.

Aaron McConchie, chairperson of Save Te Arai, said more than 6100 signatures were on a petition that is today going to Auckland Council opposing non-notified decisions on Pacific Rd, Mangawhai.

But a spokesman for Te Arai North, which has developed the Tara Iti luxury golf course and is working on a new housing estate, dismissed McConchie's claims and said the public's enjoyment of the area had been greatly enhanced with a vast new public park.

"Pacific Rd is a Crown easement through a privately owned forest. Access is guaranteed. Moreover, we gifted over 200ha of land to create a public reserve and protect Te Arai beach," the spokesman said.

"Public access is already guaranteed along Pacific Rd and the public - including the Save Te Arai group - were consulted on and agreed with minor changes to the configuration of the road into the carpark in the public reserve area in a consultation meeting last May," the spokesman said.

"For the past year, Mr McConchie has made numerous complaints to Auckland Council about our property. Not a single one has been upheld. After being part of the community liaison group that agreed to changes to improve Pacific Rd and create more access in a meeting last May, Mr McConchie has since reneged on that," the spokesman said.

Penny Pirrit, the council's regulatory services director, said no council committee had the authority to revoke resource consents.

"The Resource Management Act advises if any group has concerns about the consent process undertaken, that they must apply for a judicial review of the process at the High Court," Pirrit said.

"The development at Te Arai underwent a prolonged plan change process and an Environment Court hearing. The Environment Court set down the rules on how the approach to the Te Arai development should occur. Those rules are now being implemented through consents and the council is closely monitoring how those consents are being adhered to," she said.

But McConchie said the group wanted council decisions overturned.

"A petition with more than 6000 signatures was today handed to Auckland Council demanding revocation of non-notified decisions covering the popular Te Arai beach Pacific Rd access near Mangawhai," McConchie said.

"Public access to this iconic surf beach is under threat due to private development being carried out by Darby Partners acting for United States billionaire Ric Kayne. The development covers approximately 600ha and includes an 18-hole links golf course, over 40 luxury house sites and an airstrip," he said.

McConchie said the petition would go to the regulatory committee's scheduled meeting this morning and said the council's "disregard of local opposition" and "special favouring for private overseas investors' interests" over the public's had to stop.

"The petition asks the council to reverse previously non-notified decisions that directly influence public access and the public reserve at Te Arai as well as making Pacific Rd, which is currently a public access easement into a public road," McConchie said.

But the Te Arai North spokesman said McConchie had "grossly misrepresented" the situation.

"Public access has been increased significantly since the forest was acquired from Carter Holt Harvey in 2002. Over 200ha of beachfront and riparian land worth tens of millions of dollars has been gifted as reserve to Auckland Council.

"This was never done as a trade for credit against development levies as he asserts - but this is just one of many misrepresentations he uses to gain attention and mislead the public into supporting his campaign. He has repeatedly failed to correct those misrepresentations, and his petition is yet another example of this.

"He has been demanding that we widen the access easement into the carpark from the existing 6m - the normal width of the road - to a full 50m, which is twice the width of a four-lane motorway. The easement is already widened to the required average 50m.

"Mr McConchie has since repeatedly refused to meet with us. It is a great pity that he sees nothing good in a project which has protected a beach, created a significant public reserve, enshrined public access, planted over 1.3 million native trees and plants, undertaken a major pest eradication programme, and created a large number of jobs and additional income in the local area," the spokesman said.

- NZ Herald

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