Wayne Thompson

Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Green belt battle going to hearing

Drury residents say quarry owner's rezoning proposal of farmland buffer will create an industrial eyesore.

Drury resident Bruce Owen says Stevenson Group was trying to superimpose its wishes on the community. Photo / Chris Gorman
Drury resident Bruce Owen says Stevenson Group was trying to superimpose its wishes on the community. Photo / Chris Gorman

A battle over whether job growth should come at the expense of the South Auckland countryside will go to a hearing by Auckland Council-appointed planning commissioners next month or early May.

A quarry operator's plan to turn its farmland buffer into business sites has drawn more than 330 objections from people who predict it will spoil the rural character of their homes east of the Southern Motorway.

However, Stevenson Group said its bid to rezone 361ha in Drury South - beside the region's biggest quarry - will create capacity for business and job growth.

The company estimates the land could host businesses employing 7000 people in 20 years' time.

This would support the Auckland Council draft Unitary Plan, which suggested growth of housing between Drury and Pukekohe for 100,000-plus people.

The company projects a benefit of $2.3 billion a year to the regional economy following the project's completion as well as a $620 million contribution during construction.

The benefit of more business-zoned land is backed by the Auckland Chamber of Commerce and Greater East Tamaki Business Association.

The chamber said it offered an "exciting and timely opportunity" to boost jobs in the south while protecting the quarry, which Stevenson has operated since the 1930s and had aggregate resources to last a further 100.

The association said the Highbrook business park on the site of the former Ra Ora thoroughbred stud farm had brought social benefits and the Drury South project was twice its size.

But the company's focus on the project facilitating jobs - it predicts a total of 19,000 directly and indirectly - will be challenged by objectors.

Drury & Ramarama Protection Society chairman Peter Mathias said its investigation cast doubt on the need for a significant tract of industrial "greenfields" land, while the manufacturing sector was declining.

"People will just move from another part of Auckland to work there and clog the motorway."

The society had raised $120,000 so far to challenge the company's case for the plan changes.

"The quarry has been here for many years and the locals have no issue with it.

"They simply do not accept the buffer zone around the quarry needs to be turned into an industrial eyesore.

"Proposing the site for industrial development destroys the green belt area that essentially defines the southern boundary for Auckland."

Residents' lives had been on hold for several years and the uncertainty over future land use had made it hard to sell and move on.

The society's deputy chairman Bruce Owen said the company owned only 70 per cent of the area for rezoning and was superimposing its wishes on a community which enjoyed their country lifestyle, gardens, animals, small businesses.

Drury South is the flat area between the Drury and Ramarama motorway ramps where Transpower has built a major switching station fed by high-voltage transmission towers.

It has a chicken meat processing plant, glasshouses and packing sheds.

Stevenson applied in May 2011 and the council has dealt with the plan changes and its changes to the metropolitan urban limits to include the area, as a separate process to its work for the Unitary Plan.

The Unitary Plan comes out for public comment on Friday to show where the rural urban boundary could stretch to take 30 years' business and housing growth.

"This application is before Aucklanders have had the chance to complete their say about how and what Auckland looks like in the future," said Mr Mathias.

However, council's manager for southern planning, Anne Cheng, said the Stevenson project was allowed to be tested under the Resource Management Act and processed separately, irrespective of the council's other work or plans.

Drury South was marked for investigation on a map in last year's Auckland Plan but Stevenson's site was left out of the Unitary Plan investigation of the Drury-Karaka area in options to extend the urban growth boundary.

Stevenson said the 361ha in the Drury South project would give 201ha for industrial sites, 22ha for commercial services and 95ha for public reserves, roads and stormwater control.

The hearing panel will be David Kirkpatrick (chairman), Mark Farnsworth, Greg Hill, Ian Gunn and Councillor Noelene Raffills.

Jobs v countryside

Drury South business park.
361ha wanted for industrial, wholesale trade and transport.
7000 jobs on site predicted.
$2.3b estimated regional benefit a year.
16 per cent of estimated regional new business land needs.
$120,000 raised for community challenge.

- NZ Herald

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