Anne Gibson

Property editor of the NZ Herald

City's dream clashes with developer's

Council wants to expand beachfront reserve but investor who owns much of the land has other ideas

Richlister John Copson of Crown Group is a financier who owns almost 1ha of reserve-front land. Photo / Natalie Slade
Richlister John Copson of Crown Group is a financier who owns almost 1ha of reserve-front land. Photo / Natalie Slade

Car parks behind one of Auckland's finest beaches could be turned into an expanded public reserve under a little-publicised council plan.

But a developer who owns part of the affected land says the Takapuna Beach project cuts across his well-signalled development plans and he has no intention of selling.

Takapuna property investor, resident and richlister John Copson of Crown Group is a financier who owns almost 1ha of reserve-front land, an enormous stretch from 53 to 73 Hurstmere Rd.

It is the biggest block in the land the council needs for its vision to expand the current 4.3ha sloping reserve into a larger, flatter green space linking the beach to shops and cafes and moving the car parks underground.

Mr Copson is angry about the scheme, partly because it interferes with his plans but also because he feels ignored after pleading with officials for meetings to hammer out the issues.

"The council has made it clear they want to make The Strand a straight road but that would make our site uneconomic to redevelop.

"My real concern is to transform Takapuna and get back the vibrancy it once had, but if this council scheme goes ahead nothing will happen in terms of development," Mr Copson said. "And we're being left completely in the dark, not being consulted with yet we've asked for urgent meetings two months ago."

A central part of the plan is realignment of The Strand, the landscaped twisting road which follows the beach contours between the reserve and the existing commercial carparks from Lake Rd to the Anzac St/Hurstmere Rd roundabout.

Devonport-Takapuna Local Board chairman Chris Darby and council city transformation projects manager John Dunshea say the plans are preliminary and nothing is settled.

Mr Darby said three parties owned the land by the council reserve and nothing was stopping Mr Copson applying for resource consent for his scheme.

Mr Copson is vowing not to sell and wonders if his neighbours wouldn't also hold out against the scheme. "We should be able to all work together on this, to turn Takapuna around to face the sea.

"Without working with us and utilising our site, the council will never achieve its objective.

They don't need to realign The Strand. They can have their increased reserve and we can achieve what we want, all working collaboratively to achieve the same ends.

"They're just not consulting. We have no problem with an enlarged reserve but they don't need to have a straight road to achieve that."

Mr Darby said Mr Copson's preliminary concepts to improve his land presented a great opportunity.

"Auckland Council is also examining options for improving the beachfront reserve and realignment of The Strand as part of its focus on the transformation of Takapuna," he said.

"This includes examination of commercial land on the beachfront side of Hurstmere Rd and reconnecting the town centre to the best urban beach going."

Many plans had emerged over years for the blocks fronting the reserve, yet nothing had changed, Mr Darby said. The Strand realignment wouldn't necessarily cut through the centre of Mr Copson's land.

"The problem is that because of poor town planning, one of the best urban beaches in New Zealand is disconnected from the centre," he said.

"I've seen preliminary concepts and there's no suggestion on our part of going through the middle of John Copson's site. We're very much on a sliver on the edge."

Cameron Brewer, a councillor and chair of the Auckland Business Advisory Panel, acknowledged the public's desire for more open space.

"But let's not forget this is private land owned by someone who thought he was doing the right thing with his proposed scheme and was seemingly given plenty of initial encouragement from the council."

While the council wants areas such as Takapuna to be more intensely developed to fulfil the mayor's vision of a compact world-class city, that same council appeared to be actively working against the private sector.

"Another contradiction: the council is desperate to lift public transport participation but has so little confidence it can achieve that, that it keeps building carparks," Mr Brewer says.

Mr Dunshea said nothing was decided."We're in the process of discussions with land owners at the moment. Whether we will need to purchase land on the frontage when we finalise the preferred option, well it depends on what option is decided on."

- NZ Herald

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