Rotorua Daily Post health and business reporter

Controversial Koutu hotel consent declined (+video)


The woman who led the charge to stop a multi million-dollar hotel being built in her neighbourhood says the fight has brought the Koutu community together and proved its strength.

Opponents of the proposed development on Bennetts Rd are thrilled after the application by Bonway Investment Ltd for resource consent for the 100-room hotel was refused by a panel of commissioners.

The decision followed a hearing earlier this month where some Koutu residents expressed their fierce opposition to the proposal.

Resident Natalie Richards, who led the opposition, said the group was thrilled with the decision - but aware they might need to continue the fight if the decision was appealed to the Environment Court.

"We realised what a strong little community we are. We will go all the way."

Ms Richards said they were buzzing they had managed to stop the development. She said it was a win not just for the Koutu community but for others in the future who could face developments in their areas.

Natalie Richards is celebrating the decision to refuse resource consent for a hotel in Koutu. PHOTO/BEN FRASER
Natalie Richards is celebrating the decision to refuse resource consent for a hotel in Koutu. PHOTO/BEN FRASER

"For us it was standing up for all the other suburbs and communities... it does send a signal to developers.

"It has very much brought the community together... a lot really did think it was a done deal."

She said the decision was uplifting for those in the community who proved what could be done even with "no money, no lawyers, no so called experts".

"It has very much brought the community together... a lot really did think it was a done deal.

"It was really heartening, even on the day of the hearing seeing the number of people who turned up to support us."

However, she said personally it had been a "really huge battle" with sleepless nights.

Bonway Investment's Selina Zhang did not want to comment on the decision, or whether the company planned to appeal it to the Environment Court.

The hearing panel, made up of chairman Greg Hill, Henry Weston and Antoine Coffin, said it was a discretionary activity in a residential zone.

The commissioners said most of those against the proposal believed the hotel would have a significant adverse effect on the character and amenity values of Koutu.

The decision said many submitters believed the physical attributes of the area could not be seen separately from the cultural and physical attributes of the place.

"It is in part the physical characteristics of the area, that it is low density residential that enables a sense of community as a cultural and spiritual connection."

It said the proposed building was significantly larger than the surrounding residential development, and would appear as a very different style of development to that which currently existed.

The commissioners agreed with submitters that the traffic impact, especially the use of buses, would be significant.

"There is a clear potential for vehicles to be coming and going all hours of the day and night. This is potentially disruptive to the quiet residential character and amenity of the area at night time."

The commissioners said they were also concerned about the noise impact.

Overall, the commissioners said the proposal would have adverse effects that could not be appropriately avoided, remedied or mitigated and the proposal would have significant adverse effects on the character and amenity of the area.

Development timeline
September 2015: Developers announce plans for 100 room, four-star hotel on Bennetts Rd.
October 2015: Koutu residents vow to fight the development with more than 120 submissions in opposition to the development.
November 2016: The applicant and submitters get the chance to have their say at hearings into the development.
This week: Commissioners release their decision refusing the application for resource consent for the project.

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