Wayne Thompson

Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Developers make park offer in Te Arai Beach spat

Te Arai beach near Mangawhai. Locals are up in arms as the beach is under threat from developers.  Photo / Janna Dixon
Te Arai beach near Mangawhai. Locals are up in arms as the beach is under threat from developers. Photo / Janna Dixon

Critics of a 46-lot subdivision plan at Te Arai Beach, near Mangawhai, say public opposition stays high - despite the developers' offer to gift 172ha of park land along the 5.3km of untouched white sandy beach.

A summary of 2255 submissions on the bid to change the Rodney District Plan for the subdivision has been released by Auckland Council for public comment.

Te Arai Beach Preservation Society president Mark Walker said 1671 submissions asked that proposed plan change 166 be declined - compared with 582 submissions wanting it approved.

He said the issue was about giving subdivision rights on land adjacent to nesting grounds of the critically endangered NZ fairy tern, in exchange for park land.

Although the community was asked in 2007 to submit on a similar proposal - which resulted in 1700 submissions against and a petition signed by 3000 people - feeling against housing on the unspoiled beach remained high.

"It shows how special and valued Te Arai is."

Mr Walker said the society's submissions showed that development cut across layers of protection already in regional and local planning documents.

Furthermore, the fairy tern was listed as one of Auckland's "biodiversity jewels" in the Auckland Council draft Unitary Plan.

Opponents included the Forest & Bird Society, Historic Places Trust, Rodney Local Board, Environmental Defence Society, Surfbreak Protection Society and Auckland Conservation Board.

April 19 is the deadline for further submissions, which can support or oppose only the original submissions made in December.

Auckland City's regional and local planning manager, Penny Pirrit, said a council planner's report had to consider issues raised in both rounds and a formal hearing was unlikely to be held before July.

Developer Te Arai Coastal Lands Trust was backed by submitters which said the plan change would allow for economic benefit to the owner while safeguarding the environment.

In 2002, Te Uri o Hau Settlement Trust bought 616.6ha, with a pine forest, along the 5.3km stretch of coastal dunes of Te Arai Beach. It was bought with $5.2 million obtained as part of a Treaty of Waitangi settlement.

The trust owns 25 per cent of a joint-venture with developers Darby Partners. Supporting submissions said the plan would avoid development close to the coast and place sensitive and unprotected environmental areas in public ownership.

It would shield a 5.6ha wetland and plant native species of vegetation.

One proposal is for a buffer of 1km between development and the Department of Conservation wildlife sanctuary on the sand spit extending to Mangawhai Harbour entrance.

A plan change is not a resource consent but creates a position where a resource consent can be considered.

Te Arai beach development plans:

2002: Hapu buys $5.2 million coastal forest.

2005: Lodges district plan change for 1400-lot coastal community.

2006: Modifies for 850 lots.

2008: Redesigns for 180-lot coastal community.

2010: Talks to Auckland Regional Council about selling parts for reserve.

2011: Seeks private plan change for 46 rural residential lots.allotments.

2012: Further submissions close April 19.

- NZ Herald

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