A Buddhist trust has received resource consent to use a south Auckland rural block for a Tibetan temple with 38 bedrooms for monks and visitors and 28 affordable homes for followers.
But objecting neighbours say Auckland Council blessing for the trust's "housing estate" in Alfriston ignores that it is outside the present metropolitan urban limit.
This would prompt more lifestyle block owners to cash up and sell to developers and land bankers.
The trust, which uses a Manurewa suburban house, says the 5.3ha grazing property is ideal for a purpose-built 19.5m-high temple based on a traditional design.
"We are pleased with the result," said Michael Barraclough, of the Zhyisil Chokyi Ghatsal Charitable Trust.
Development would be in stages, with work on some of the temple and some of the houses starting in March or April.
The internal work of intricate carvings and paintings could take two to three years to complete.
Mr Barraclough said ordained monks and nuns traditionally stayed in their temple and members strongly wished to live near their religious base.
The temple would be used for retreats for up to 150 people and its park-like grounds would be open to the public.
But residents in the five objecting neighbouring properties were disappointed with the decision to grant resource consent, subject to mitigating conditions.
It was made on the council's behalf by a panel of independent commissioners, who said the application had unique qualities.
In a statement to the Herald, residents said they believed it set a precedent that was against the best interests of the wider Alfriston community.
Residents of this cluster of small-holdings and lifestyle properties represented a wide spectrum of society in the greater Papakura and Manurewa wards. They included farmers, boutique food producers, small-business people, accountants, lawyers and retirees.
"We have another smaller but growing group also - land bankers [living] offshore," said residents Stuart Jennings and Yolande Dickson-Smith.
They said the element of a housing estate beside a temple opened up the scope for future residential development on neighbouring farmland.
It seemed developers would have the ear of the council for any future plan.
"We bought here for a rural not an urban way of life so as not to be looked on by neighbours."
The decision noted the land was outside the metropolitan urban limit and required a non-complying activity consent under the Papakura section of the district plan and a discretionary activity consent under the regional plans.
However, lawyer David Kirkpatrick argued that a religious building may be in any urban or rural setting, provided its bulk, location and servicing matched that setting.
He said a great deal about the proposal took it out of the ordinary and it would not undermine the district plan.
The applicant's planning consultant, David Hay, said the site and surrounding properties were now within the proposed Rural Urban Boundary under the Unitary Plan. This allowed an application for a special housing area, which would allow urban development to be fast-tracked if approved.