Private individuals applying for helipads throughout Auckland has been a controversial issue of late, after moves by Briscoe boss Rod Duke. Just where are all the latest applications - and who's behind them? Anne Gibson reports.
Wealthy Aucklanders have been granted consent for nearly two dozen private helicopter pads in the past six years, with 20 granted on Waiheke Island alone.
New data from Auckland Council reveals how the rich are increasingly choppering to their island hideaways; spurning public transport in favour of a much faster, more private transport mode.
Those fortunate folk have been able to add the ultimate transport accessory to their beachfront playgrounds and while Auckland Transport encourages us to bike, bus, boat or train between home and work, the rich are increasingly taking to the air to escape the city.
Since late 2013, the council received 25 helicopter pad applications on private properties, of which all but two were granted: Briscoes boss Rod Duke's application in Sarsfield St in Herne Bay is "processing" and another, on Waiheke's Nick Johnstone Drive, is listed as "on hold".
You won't necessarily know about any of these helipad consents being granted because, in every single case, applications were processed on a non-notified basis. No one had a chance to object because the applications were deemed to comply or largely comply.
The council has revealed to the Herald the precise location and nature of each application, who applied and the outcome.
We've mapped each helipad consent so you can see the details of who asked, the application's status, the address, and a description of what was applied for.
Helicopters are popular at upmarket vineyards Cable Bay, Man O' War Winery and Te Whau. Guests at weddings, corporate events and parties often chopper from operators at Onehunga, Albany or Mechanics Bay.
Three years ago, tennis star Serena Williams choppered to the island on New Year's Eve to explore a private beach.
David Parkinson's $24 million home - which was recently passed in at auction - at Te Rere Cove has an outdoor bar that sits on a helipad on the big lawn overlooking the ocean. It's on wheels so when a helicopter lands it can be moved.
But with the latest 25 helipad applications to council, not all is quite how it seems. For example, one pad is consented but not built, while another was built more than 20 years ago.
Simon Rowntree, who with James Brown founded Tournament Parking, says he hasn't used his valid consent yet.
He and partner Joanna are listed as owning a property on Cowes Bay Rd on the island and they got a consent in August 2017.
"We haven't used it. We might in the future but we have no immediate plans. We have to activate it in five years," Rowntree said.
Not too far away, at the Connells Bay Sculpture Park in Cowes Bay Rd, owners John and Joanna Gow won consent on September 28 last year. Gow said that was retrospective.
"The previous owner built the helipad 25 years ago but never had a resource consent for it. If we hadn't applied, potentially someone could have said 'oi, what are you doing?'
"The reason we have it is that we run the property as a sculpture park and we have had guests who then become clients of ours through inbound travel operators and they want to fly their clients here."
Not all always goes smoothly in the air over the island.
Four years ago, the Auckland Council won a case against the Cable Bay Vineyard's owner Motukaha Investments, fined $9000 for excessive helicopter flights after Waiheke residents complained and provided information.
The vineyard was limited to 10 flights in 30 days, but 36 flights were logged in one month and 42 in another, the council said.
New Zealand's wealthiest private property investor, Ted Manson, has a helicopter pad only a garden away from the front door of the Waiheke home he bought from ex-All Black Marc Ellis.
The sale was reported in 2018, but the helipad application for the Alan Murray Lane property was granted a year before, in July 2017.
Boulgaris Realty is advertising the property for sale as "one of the island's most glamorous".
Briscoes boss Rod Duke had by mid-April failed to get a helicopter boatshed through the system at Herne Bay's Sentinel Beach at the bottom of his new Sarsfield St home, now being finished.
Although the council granted consent for the beachfront landing structure, opponents had it overturned in court just before Christmas and Duke's barrister Richard Brabant has made two new applications for certificates of compliance and existing use rights.
Cleverly named Waiheke-based consultants Isle Land is the single busiest planner winning consents, according to council records.
Isle Land lodged 13 of the 25 helicopter pads in the system during the six years, every one on the island.
Asked why so many helipad applications were being made for Waiheke properties, Isle Land's Wendy Baverstock said: "Obviously people are wanting to access their relatively remote coastal property by helicopter."
But not all were for private individuals, she indicated.
"Some applications were for wineries," Baverstock said.
"Primarily, my clients are on Waiheke and I tend to work with acoustic engineers," she said, referring to sound engineer Peter Ibbotson of specialists Marshall Day Acoustics.
"It's a relatively specialised area."
Asked how many flights a week were allowed on average from her recent applications, she said: "It all depends on the remoteness of the property, typography, [numbers of] other helipads in the area and the type of helicopter using the pad. For example, twin-engines are noisier than single-engine helicopters."
Most recent helipad resource consent activity:
• Donald Bruce Rd, Waiheke, owned by Earl and Jo Meek, formerly of La Bonne Cuisine: granted October 31, 2018
• Cowes Bay Rd, Waiheke, John and Joanna Gow: granted November 12, 2018
• Nick Johnstone Dr, Waiheke, owned by businessman Andrew Cullen: still on hold.
• Cowes Bay Rd, Waiheke: new application currently being processed
• Sarsfield St, Herne Bay, Briscoe boss Rod Duke's place, subject to High Court review.
We ask the expert
Peter Ibbotson, of Marshall Day Acoustics, is involved in many helipad resource consent applications.
Q: How do you perform this role?
A: We carry out the helicopter noise assessment and provide advice in the form of a report or expert evidence for a hearing. We can work for helicopter operators, potentially affected residents, public institutions for example rescue helicopter landing pads, or in a review role for council. We are independent technical experts and our advice is impartial.
Q: How do you go about that?
For a new helipad application, we carry out calculations to determine the noise level that would be generated by arrivals and departures. These assessments are performed using our specialist knowledge of noise emissions from various helicopter models that have been acquired over years of project work. For some new projects, we perform acoustic modelling using computer applications that calculate noise levels over a wide area. Sometimes measurements of helicopters in operation are required and these are carried out using specialised instrumentation to accurately measure noise from helicopter arrivals and departures.
The assessments are carried out to ensure that noise from helicopter flights will be reasonable and appropriate for the area in which they are proposed. Helicopter noise in New Zealand is regulated by district plans and these often contain rules around how much noise can be generated by helicopters. Our role is to advise on whether helicopter operation can comply with the noise rules and, if so, what operational restrictions are required.
Q: How many applications have you been involved in during the past decade?
I've provided some advice on around 60 helicopter-related projects over the past 10 years and a search of helicopters in our company project list reveals 120 projects in the past 10 years. This has included such as advice to helicopter transit companies on proposed operations, rescue helicopter landing areas in urban areas, advising on civic events that involve multiple helicopter flights, winery developments, tourist charter operations, industrial lifting operations and private helicopter landing areas.
Q: How many years have you worked in the helipad application field?
A: The majority of the projects I've personally been involved in have been since 2011. Our company has been providing advice on specialist aviation noise issues for more than 30 years.
Q: Have you seen any applications fail and if so, why?
A: Applications are sometimes declined through the resource consent process. The reasons for this will vary but mostly they are in very tight residential situations where the operator can't get immediate neighbour approval. However, if a specialist noise assessment has been prepared that clearly shows the noise rules can be complied with, I would expect the application to be granted.
Q: Why so many for Waiheke since 2013?
A: May be due to the gentrification of Waiheke and possibly due to changes to planning rules.
Q: What do you say to people who don't like helicopters and object to negative effects like noise?
A: It's important that the environmental effects of helicopter noise are well managed and regulated. I'd encourage people who have an interest in helicopter noise to participate in the process and to make relevant submissions to the council, as part of any district plan review or specific application.