Key Points:

A bid to build a railway station-themed restaurant, cafe and function centre in rural Waimauku is opposed by officers of the Rodney District Council and Auckland Regional Council.

The plan has drawn 463 submissions, of which 333 are against and 130 for.

Doug Allan, lawyer for the developer Cornerstone, said yesterday that it was surprising, given the limited scale and nature of the proposal, that it had generated such interest and - in the eyes of council officers - posed such a threat to regional planning policies and the countryside.

He told planning commissioners the bid for resource consents was simply for a 320sq m building alongside the North Auckland Railway Line on a small part of a 463ha farm owned by Cornerstone.

The building would be designed as a railway station for patrons to travel to by chartered train.

Consent was not being sought for use of the station for commuter scheduled rail services.

Mr Allan said patrons would also come in vehicles from State Highway 16.

He said the critical response to the proposal may have been affected by publicity relating to Cornerstone's long-term vision for a European-style village for up to 6000 people on the farm.

But the present application was unrelated to the wider development proposals and was for establishing a cafe that would contribute revenue to a struggling farming balance sheet.

Mr Allan said the proposal would not prejudge the district council's Waimauku structure plan process which is to guide growth for the area 32km north-east of Auckland.

It would not adversely affect the rural character and amenity of the location.

Rodney District Council planners said the proposal would have significant adverse effects. It would introduce an urban-style activity when the Auckland Regional Policy Statement was trying to protect rural character.

ARC planners called it ad hoc urban expansion and said it challenged the integrity of the structure plan process.

Cornerstone's case was that a rural cafe, 2km from Waimauku, was a rural activity and was not prevented by the Auckland Regional Policy Statement.

Cornerstone planning and development manager Tim Sinclair said 118 submissions supported the land use bid.

Separately from the proposal, he said, Cornerstone had prepared a master plan for the whole farm, which had the potential for 1300 households.

Tomorrow Vision Waimauku will put forward the community's view on the proposal. Co-chairman Ian Farrant said the reason for so much interest in the cafe proposal was the suspicion that Cornerstone was seeking a foothold in a wider development plan.