ARC sours dream of Pakiri beach pad

By Wayne Thompson

Caterer Rae Ah Chee hoped that after 40 years of working with the clatter of pots and plates he would be living at his beach house at Pakiri, listening to birdsong and the sound of waves.

But this week the retired functions supremo of Eden Park and major Auckland events said his dream - described by ARC parks chairman Sandra Coney as an "intrusive trophy house" - still seemed a long way off.

Eighteen months ago Mr Ah Chee, in partnership with Epsom residents Evelyn and William Chong, applied for resource consents from the Rodney District Council to build a house on the southern ridge overlooking Pakiri Beach.

The site for the six-bedroom, two-level home was on 4.8ha that they bought in July 2004.

It was on part of the "Arrigato" block then owned by developers Richard Kroon and Kim Spencer.

The subdivision of the former sheep farm at the beach's southern end has been the subject of court battles and controversy for more than a decade.

Mr Ah Chee and Mr Chong, who is a director of a fruit and vegetable retailing chain, thought that ended in 2001 when the Environment Court gave permission for a 14-lot lifestyle subdivision with extensive bush planting, despite the Auckland Regional Council's opposition.

No houses had been built, so before buying lot 3 Mr Ah Chee said they engaged a consultant to check what the court decision allowed them to do.

"The court determined where we could build, the [home's] height, size and architectural design, so we drew up plans and submitted them to the council ... then the fun started.

"We've been waiting eighteen months for zilch progress."

Mr Ah Chee said the plans were "quite grand" and called for significant excavation for a basement with carpark, a sauna and a wine cellar. But they were advised to avoid objections by withdrawing this plan in favour of one with only an excavation to take a small wine cellar.

However, in December the Auckland Regional Council bought 52ha of neighbouring coastal land from boxer David Tua to make a regional park.

A few weeks later the ARC added to the park, with the purchase of the 126ha of remaining Arrigato land from the developers whose companies were by then in receivership.

"The ARC bought the land surrounding ours and then said they wanted all this land as reserve, which was fine, but the Environment Court had allowed us to build as long as we complied with what it had determined."

"We are baffled as to why we are being withheld resource consent when we comply with that determination."

The plan now goes to a public hearing in July and has drawn 14 submissions, all of them against it.

One objector is Hilary Russell, of the historic Dovedale Homestead across the road from the site.

"The house will be massive, disgusting and will ruin the park," said Mrs Russell, who campaigned hard against the Arrigato subdivision.

Pakiri property owner and barrister Simon Reeves said the original subdivision consent was not relevant now that new owner, the ARC, had publicly declared its intention not to proceed with such consents but instead to create a regional park.

The ARC says the application is inappropriate for the area.

It says the house, at 590sq m, would be "exceedingly large" and in such a highly prominent location that it would dominate the scene from the park and the beach.

The site was within an area marked in planning documents for outstanding landscape quality and sensitivity.

ARC parks chairman Sandra Coney said: "We've spent $20 million of ratepayers' money to give a wonderful remote get-away-from-it-all iconic park and are keen to protect it from this intrusion of a trophy house on the landscape."

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