A powerful Auckland councillor has expressed concern about Auckland rules for helicopter landing pads on private properties, saying they are "not as stringent as they should be" and that the system should be changed.
Chris Darby, planning committee chairman and one of two North Shore councillors, said on the current helicopter landing regime in the city: "I'm not convinced the council has fit-for-purpose or appropriate provisions in the Auckland Unitary Plan."
He pointed to a possible regime tightening, saying he was awaiting a new monitoring report which would examine the success, or otherwise, of the Auckland Unitary Plan and different regimes for assessing helicopter landing applications throughout different areas of the city.
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That, he said, was wrong and he is watching with interest the progress of two high-profile applications: a helicopter landing application by Briscoe boss Rod Duke's home at 75 Sarsfield St and another application at a Parnell property owned by Richlisters including Trevor Farmer at 73 Paritai Dr.
"Some people go to luxury lengths to get to their wine tasting, bach palace or island hideaway. At Council over recent months I have made enquiries on helicopter consent issues and applications pending. More importantly, I have asked our 'plans and places' division to advise on the robustness of the planning provisions that must be met to allow for helicopter landing pads," Darby said.
"From my cursory read of the provisions, I am not convinced they are as stringent as they should be.
"I am aware of the Herne Bay and Paritai Dr applications for helipads and with the America's Cup less than two years away, I would not be surprised to see a lot more. I understand there are currently something like 40 consented helipads on Waiheke Island alone," Darby said, expressing surprise about that number.
"Following my enquiry with staff, it has been confirmed that in some legacy council areas, like the old North Shore City, the activity status for helipads has been relaxed.
"That has created what appears to be a more permissive framework in some areas. Whereas helicopter landing was a non-complying activity, it is now a restricted discretionary activity," Darby noted.
That means some helicopter landing applications would get through the system easier in some areas than others, yet the Unitary Plan sought to create one set of rules for the city.
Waiheke is a helicopter landing drawcard: 20 of around 24 applications to the council since 2013 have been for the island, partly due to its rural nature but also, according to planners, because of a different planning regime there.
"The plan currently provides assessment criteria related to noise and vibration and impacts, and on adjacent sites. The criteria don't appear to address neighbourhood amenity, privacy, air turbulence, birds and ecology, Significant Ecological Areas and Conservation Reserve impacts," Darby said.
"There is potential for helicopters to adversely affect amenity values of the city in many ways, and even more so in the urban environments of the city," he said, indicating he had some sympathy for opponents of the two current applications.
"Council planning staff are currently looking at a range of AUP matters and will be bringing a AUP monitoring report in due course," he said.
At Herne Bay, the court overturned Auckland Council consent for a landing pad at Duke's place. Now, his barrister Richard Brabant has applied for new consents to be granted on the boatshed only, giving it legal status.
Separately, he plans to apply for helicopter landing rights.
Opponents, the Herne Bay Residents Association, objected to the Sentinel Beach boatshed being used for helicopter landings, citing negative effects on the neighbourhood and beach-goers.
In Parnell, submissions to the Civil Aviation Authority on a heliport for 73 Paitai Dr closed on April 30. Television celebrity and neighbour Louise Wallace has voiced opposition to that, saying helicopters could create significant negative effects in the area and the Mechanics Bay landing facility was very close by.