Forgotten families fight for lifestyle

Ruakura rural residents' frustration at being ignored by Hamilton City Council planning staff is turning to anger.

Despite continuing efforts to compromise on the effects of the proposed Ruakura Inland Port development, Percival Rd residents feel they are being stymied at every turn. They claim they have never been consulted over zoning changes to their land and planning to eventually surround their country lifestyle residences with a large-scale continuous freight operation.

Bill Cowie, spokesperson for the group of 30 families affected by the proposal, says the issue is moving to expensive and time consuming Environment Court hearings.

"We don't want that to happen. We support the development of the inland port. We see the benefits it will create for the city and the employment potential.

"We have been forgotten in the process and are seeking some minor mitigation to allow our rural lifestyles to continue."

He says bureaucratic silence and reluctance to engage has cost his group and the council unnecessary legal fees - and more are likely.

The group wants a 40m green belt buffer zone with a 4m high planted earthen bund wrapping around the lifestyle area.

Bill and his family have lived on their land for 30 years.

The first he and other affected families heard of the Tainui-linked inland port and associated land planning was in the business pages of the Bay of Plenty Times.

"Since then, we have struggled to engage with council staff. We have been largely ignored," Bill says.

In a letter to Mayor Hardaker and council CEO Barry Harris he says he is staggered council staff have been unwilling to consult.

"Other residential land adjoining the development has buffers. But council planers seem to have decided, without consulting us, our land will not. This would seem an incredible way to deal with affected property owners in the review of the District Plan."

In the letter, he says the residents are not a group of dissidents. "We are not opposed to the port; rather we are ratepayers whose properties are going to be changed dramatically and forcefully by council with no consultation. We want our homes and investments to be adequately protected," says Bill.

"We are and have been more than willing to meet and work through issues in a collaborative manner, but despite this we have been stonewalled by council staff."

Another Percival Rd resident Derrick Marsters says neither Hamilton City Council or Tainui Group Holdings are prepared to relocate us or buy our properties and they can't be forced to.

"We would be a lot better off if Transit put a road through our properties - we would be covered by the Public Works Act and be able to negotiate a buy-out at a fair market price.

"Tainui Group Holdings plans to make millions of dollars from this development - at our expense! TGH will immediately make hundreds of millions of dollars through the re-zoning of their land from rural to a mix of logistics, industrial and residential.

"Yet we are forced to endure the polar opposite."

Mr Marsters says the group doesn't oppose progress and believed an inland port may be a good for Hamilton but was opposed to how they have been treated.

"TGH did meet us at our request. At the meeting they clearly stated they don't need our land. If this is the case, then why don't they leave us permanently with a residential status and give us some form of protection against noise, light, sound, visual effects etc?"

- Hamilton News

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