The approach of Waikato Regional Council and NZTA to land use planning is "an overly conservative, outdated and doctrinaire fixed point in time" attitude, the resource consent hearing for the $1 billion Sleepyhead development proposal for north Waikato has heard.
The Sleepyhead company's community master plan for an industrial, residential and commercial development on 178 hectares at Ohinewai requires rezoning from rural in the proposed Waikato District Plan.
The company, formally known as The Comfort Group, is Australasia's biggest bedding and foam maker. It employs 1000 people in Auckland and Australia, manufacturing the Sleepyhead brand and other products and has outgrown its aged facilities in Avondale and Otahuhu.
Legal submissions on behalf of the company on the first day of the hearing said the proposal was strongly supported by the Waikato District Council, tangata whenua and local residents, including Huntly business and community representatives.
Opponents were the "old guard" in the Waikato Regional Council, the New Zealand Transport Agency and to a slightly lesser degree, the Future Proof Implementation Committee, the submissions said.
"Locals are supportive because they can see the benefit of the huge boost to the economy and the employment that will result....They wonder why the bureaucrats in Hamilton want to take this opportunity away from them.
The thrust of the agency and council's opposition was that Ohinewai had not been provided for in strategic planning documents. Their various concerns were underpinned by an inflexible and philosophical position "which they have endeavoured to support by throwing the book at the proposed Ohinewai rezoning down to a surprising level of detail for a zoning hearing".
"With all due respect we submit that this 'black letter' approach to land use planning reflects an overly conservative, outdated, and doctrinaire 'fixed point in time' approach that fails to recognise the significant one-off opportunity that the Sleepyhead Estate proposal represents," said the legal submissions.
The approach of the two was also inconsistent with, or "conveniently overlooks", a Future Proof summary statement that the Future Proof settlement pattern needed "to be agile enough to respond to change".
The distinction between the position adopted by the regional council, NZTA and Future Proof as compared with the enthusiastic support of the WDC, local iwi represented by the Tangata Whenua Governance Group and Huntly locals, was best epitomised by the phrase "opportunity versus orthodoxy", said the legal submission.
The developers were confident the project would be capable of generating more than $100 million a year "in an area under socio-economic pressure".
The Comfort Group is owned by brothers Craig and Graeme Turner and family interests.
Craig Turner's submission to the independent commissioners said the 85 year old company's culture was strongly focused on staff wellbeing. So some had been with the company for more than 40 years and some families for several generations.
The company wants to help its employees into home ownership which they couldn't afford in Auckland. Old manufacturing sites were difficult to keep up to standard.
The concept of the Sleepyhead Estate and the philosophy underpinning the proposal was for a large industrial development that made provision for a community where people could eat, sleep, live, work and play in one place, Turner's submission said.
"To me, this project helps to address the desperate need for growth in the area, coupled with a new way of embracing growth that encompasses, and addressed, the massively growing unemployment of our youth.
"This is the first step in showing other New Zealand businesses that we need to change our approach to industry and make this more than just providing jobs.
"If this is done properly, it will promote a way of life that sees our youth, above all else, have hope."
The position taken by the regional council, NZTA and Future Proof reflected a failure to understand not only the economic benefits, but the social and cultural benefits also.
"It is short-sighted and very disappointing, " Turner's submission said.