Kaipara District Council has taken the unusual step of putting off its decision-making on plans for Mangawhai Central's $750 million urban development.
The deferment came at last week's Kaipara District Council (KDC) meeting in Mangawhai.
Hearing commissioners have recommended KDC accepts Mangawhai Central Limited's private plan change application, subject to conditions, for the centre of the settlement.
At the KDC meeting, the agenda item about it recommended the council voted in favour of the private plan change.
About 4000 people live in Mangawhai, Northland's fastest growing area - and one of the quickest developing in New Zealand. The developer's updated plans would add about 2500 people to that.
KDC mayor Dr Jason Smith said at the meeting the council should proceed with the hearing committee's recommendation to accept the private plan change application, subject to conditions. But councillors voted 5-3 to instead to defer that decision until the council's April meeting.
Councillor Jonathan Larsen called for the decision to lie on the table and councillors Victoria del la Varis-Woodcock, Karen Joyce-Paki, Mark Vincent and David Wills supported this.
Councillors said they needed more time to digest information supporting the agenda item recommendation.
Wills said the decision councillors made was crucial, given that the central Mangawhai development meant homes for 2500 people, 10 per cent of Kaipara's population.
He said he had not had enough time to digest the 277-page private plan change proposal – which had got to him on Thursday, March 25 - two days ahead of the meeting. He had taken a legal opinion that there was risk in him making a decision on recommended private plan change acceptance, due to not having had enough time to peruse the document.
Meanwhile Smith, Peter Wethey and Eryn Wilson-Collins voted against deferring the decision.
KDC deputy mayor Anna Curnow was not in the room for the debate and vote. She was one of the three commissioners hearing the private plan change application along with independent commissioners David Hill and Greg Hill.
Auckland-based developer Mangawhai Central Limited has already started work on creating the equivalent of a whole new town in the centre of the coastal hamlet. It is seeking a private plan change to intensify and change aspects of this $750 million-plus urbanisation.
Smith told councillors their decision on the hearing committee's recommendation was a process matter about simply voting whether to accept the committee's recommendations, not to question or understand the material that had been worked through during the independent commissioners' deliberation.
He said councillors had delegated the commissioners to work through supporting material and make that decision on their behalf and that was how the matter should be dealt with.
Larsen said deferring the decision until KDC's next council meeting enabled greater clarity around how much debt the Mangawhai sewerage scheme still has. He also wanted more information on how and when it would be paid off and by whom. Delaying the decision meant that information could be provided in a council briefing. This was crucial, given the existing scheme was challenged to meet demands from its existing population.
His efforts come in spite of procedural rules meaning that April's private plan change application reconsideration is somewhat of a technicality and can only look at what was presented to the meeting – unless new information is put forward.
Council acceptance of the plan change would enable further legal planning processing towards intensification of housing development on the Mangawhai Central site. The development was once for 500 houses but is now proposed to grow 1000 houses with reduction in some section sizes.
Mangawhai Central Ltd wants to develop 130 hectares of a former sheep and beef farm between Mangawhai village in the south and Mangawhai Heads in the north.
The proposal - to house about 2500 people - also includes a light industrial business park, supermarket, retail shopping centre, retirement village and residential enclave.
Buildings up to 12 metres high are allowed in its business area, eight metres in its service area.
Some are concerned the new development will hugely change Mangawhai, with more people shifting to live permanently in the town. Mangawhai's population is forecast to increase by 15,000 permanent residents in the next 20 years.