The $3.5 billion Todd business can go to the High Court over the Environment Court's rejection of its Okura plans yesterday.

Chris Darby, chairman of Auckland Council's planning committee, last night acknowledged Todd could appeal the decision "but on matters of law only".

Chris Darby is pleased with the Okura decision. Photo / Greg Bowker
Chris Darby is pleased with the Okura decision. Photo / Greg Bowker

In a decision of more than 200 pages, the Environment Court rejected the $1.4b housing plan by Okura Holdings, a Todd Property business which owns a 130ha rural block outside Auckland's northern city limits.

Read more: Environment Court rejects Todd Property's $1.4b 1000-house project at Okura

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But Todd has the right to seek to have that overturned by the High Court.

Todd has been working for years at Long Bay, where a new $70m town centre and entrance way into the development is now being built.

The Todd family appeared on last year's National Business Review Rich List, with an estimated $3.5b fortune, behind Graeme Hart's $7.5b.

Todd Property yesterday said it was reviewing the court's decision but made no statements about any possible appeal or whether it was considering that avenue. Neil Donnelly of Todd was one of the senior executives who led the push to develop at Okura.

Evan Davies, Todd Property managing director, is understood to be in England. Environment and resource management specialist lawyers Sue Simons and Andrew Braggins of Berry Simons, based in Shortland St, acted for Okura Holdings.

Darby said the decision protected the distinctive "sense of place" of the Long Bay Okura Marine Reserve, which would remain intact now.

It stops urbanisation, meaning the urban limit of Auckland stops at Long Bay, he said. Land within the Okura catchment, which discharges into the Long Bay Okura Marine Reserve, would not be urbanised, he said.

Darby said the decision was "a massive win for the council and the Unitary Plan. It is further evidence that Auckland Council will strongly defend the Rural Urban Boundary and a second, notable win for the city, protecting the 'green lungs' of Auckland and ensuring that we retain breathing space beyond the city limits for people and nature."

Julia Parfitt, Hibiscus and Bays chairperson, said she supported the decision: "While we need to meet the needs of our growing region it cannot come at the cost of our environment, which needs protecting for future generations."

Sue Simons, one of two solicitors who acted for Okura Holdings. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Sue Simons, one of two solicitors who acted for Okura Holdings. Photo / Brett Phibbs

A sokesman for the council's planning team said: "The Long Bay Okura Marine reserve is a significant ecological area in the Unitary Plan and, as such, deserves to be protected."

Duguid said the plan provided for around 15,000ha of land for urbanisation for future urban areas.

Neil Donnelly of Todd Property, which planned to develop at Okura.
Neil Donnelly of Todd Property, which planned to develop at Okura.

Darby released a statement in which he summarised the history of planning at Okura:

• In 1996 the Environment Court considered the location of the Metropolitan Urban Limit in this area and stated that the MUL should follow the catchment boundary between Long Bay and Okura Catchments (ie the route of Vaughans Road), meaning that south of this ridgeline (Long Bay) would be treated as urban and north of this (Okura) would be rural. This outcome was upheld on appeal to the High Court in 1997, Darby said.

• The council in its Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan retained the urban limit in this area along the Vaughans Road ridge, in line with the previous Environment Court decision, he said.

• The Unitary Plan Independent Hearings Panel recommended to council that the RUB in this area be moved from the Vaughans Road ridge so that land to the east of Okura village could be urbanised, also recommending that "live" urban zonings (mostly Mixed Housing Suburban) be applied to the land, Darby's statement said.

• This IHP recommendation was rejected by the planning committee unanimously, so the council was to retain the RUB along the Vaughans Road ridge, and retain the land around Okura village as rural, he said.

• This decision of the council was appealed to the Environment Court by the majority landowner Okura Holdings Limited, a subsidiary of Todd Property, he said.

• Okura Holdings sought that the RUB be relocated so that land east of Okura Village could be urbanised.

• The Environment Court dismissed the appeal today and the RUB will remain along the Vaughans Road ridge. This means the land around Okura should remain rural.

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