Residents of Auckland's wealthiest suburb fear a prominent businessman's proposed helicopter flights from his new residence and the effects on their precious beach.
Dirk Hudig of the Herne Bay Residents Association said his organisation had received a significant amount of correspondence from people worried about Briscoe Group managing director Rod Duke's plans for helicopters to take off and land at a boatshed he and wife Patricia have consent to demolish on their Sarsfield St property.
The new boatshed would be built with a James Bond-style roof which would open, turning the structure into a helicopter landing pad, consent documents from the council show.
The boatshed is on the popular inner-city Sentinel Beach.
"Our view is that it's a consent application which ought to have been publicly notified because the boatshed is in a recreational area," Hudig said.
"We have visions of someone sitting on the beach and the helicopter blasting sand all over the place and a big backwash from the sea. Because this is public land, it ought to have been notified."
Duke said this morning he had no comment to make about residents' fears. On Monday, he said he had lodged an Environment Court appeal against Auckland Council restrictions on helicopter flight movements and wants an increase on six weekly arrivals and departures.
He said this week he hoped the hearing would be quite soon.
But Hudig said council documents on the Duke's proposals raised a number of issues for Herne Bay residents. Expert advice had been sought, Hudig said.
"We have a retired senior environmental law practitioner on our committee. I have forwarded the documents to him together with my queries," Hudig said last night.
Pauline Ray, a resident of Hamilton Rd which bisects Sarsfield St, has strong concerns.
"I live about six houses away and my objection is that people swim all around these bays. I was swimming there on Monday afternoon and there were about 50 people down at the beach and in the water.
"It would be extremely dangerous having a helicopter coming in close to swimmers, including lots of children. I can't believe the council has given permission to even have a helipad there – absolute disregard for the community," Ray said.
"I do a swim from my beach right across to the Sentinel Rd point and the helicopter would fly low past me - terribly dangerous. Other locals train for their ocean swims there as well," Ray said.
A Sarsfield St resident called the Herald to complain about the proposal, saying helicopters in the area which landed on private property sometimes approached from the land due to wind conditions. She feared issues if there was an accident.
Duke said on Monday that many other people in that waterfront area were allowed six flights a week from their properties, he had consent from neighbours for flights from the new Sarsfield St home and wanted to be treated the same as anyone else in the area.
"There's a whole bunch of people on that particular coast who have landing rights for six flights a week," Duke said.
Duke said he did not own a helicopter but hired one.
"From time to time, I have got a golf membership up the coast. I don't want to have to drive to Onehunga," he said referring to Advanced Flight's base there.
Waitemata Local Board area minutes showed that on September 8, Rod and Patricia Duke lodged an appeal "against condition 7 of a resource consent granted by the council relating to the number of helicopter flights to and from the site, in particular from a helicopter landing area located in the general coastal marine zone." The minutes noted directions were being awaited from the Environment Court.
Duke bought two adjoining clifftop sites - and a big seaside boatshed - with panoramic views where he is gutting an existing house. The Dukes plan to leave Remuera and move there this coming winter.
"It's on schedule for July/August," Duke said on Monday of the completion date.
Precisions Construction is building the new house on the waterfront sites close to the CBD and worth more than $12m.