Plans to transform a historic church in Campbells Bay into the largest daycare centre on the North Shore - for 150 children and 20 staff - have locals fuming about the loss of native bush, construction of noise barriers and increased traffic.
Developer and daycare centre operator Adrian Rowan bought the earthquake-prone former All Hallows Methodist Church last year and got initial community support to strengthen it as part of a new daycare centre and use as a community facility.
The 1950s, steepled brick building has a category B historic scheduling in the former North Shore City district plan.
Mr Rowan said the aim was to make a minimal visual impact on the site, hence the idea of an underground carpark and green roof.
After several residents signed a letter of support for the project last year, many are having second thoughts, including Bruce and Margaret Palmer, who have lived next door to the church for 36 years.
The Palmers organised a meeting this week, drawing 70 locals voicing concern about the scale of the daycare centre and its effects on the suburb.
Mr Palmer said the "Berlin Wall" between his property and the daycare centre won't make a difference to the noise from 150 young children. He would not mind a daycare centre for 50 children - Campbells Bays has 90 children aged under 5 - but not a "great monstrosity" for 150 children.
The retired publisher has hired a barrister and planner costing $50,000 to $100,000 to challenge the development.
Local resident Tracey Mehrtens said the daycare centre would attract a huge daily traffic influx of 150 cars in the morning and 150 again in the afternoon, to an already congested traffic area.
"Apart from the site being zoned residential, not commercial, the developer needs to break just about every council rule in the book to gain council approval to proceed," Ms Mehrtens said.
"This includes cutting down pohutukawa trees and bush that has been identified for protection to preserve native birdlife by the Campbells Bay Urban Sanctuary."
The application calls for the removal of seven protected trees, which a planning report for Mr Rowan said were "neither significant nor outstanding specimens". Work is proposed within the dripline of a further nine protected trees.
The application is on hold while Auckland Council requests more information.