The Parua Bay Residents And Ratepayers Association responds to Whangārei District Council CEO Rob Forlong's column of March 7.
Thanks to Whangārei District Council CEO Rob Forlong for presenting the Council view on Parua Bay community concerns regarding Plan Change 85C- Rural Villages (Northern Advocate March 7 page 9).
However, this skirts around the community's principal concern that a 21 hectare "Expansion Area" (EA) of the Rural Village Residential Environment (RVRE), has been added east of the existing Parua Bay RVRE zone without notification or related community consultations.
In his attempted justification, Mr Forlong misleadingly conflates the un-notified Expansion Area with the notified Parua Bay Plan Change 85C.
Mr Forlong is correct in pointing out that the Plan Change 85C has been part of a rolling review process over at least 15 years and that public consultations were involved, especially in earlier years. Whether or not Council has paid more than scant attention to this input is another matter. But we are not aware of any consultations with the community that addressed the possibility of the EA.
In fact, in June 2016, Section 32 Evaluation Reports, Plan Change 85C reviewed and rejected options for expanding the Parua Bay RVRE zone (other than a minor addition).
On July 13, 2016, Council adopted Plan Change 85C, which did not include the EA. This was created at a late stage in the process without related public notification. It evolved in an ad-hoc manner after the two Plan Change 85C submission periods had closed.
The general public was thus precluded from responding to the second round of submissions (closing December 20, 2016) – since any member of the public who had made no submission during the two submission periods, when the EA did not exist, was locked out of the process.
It is understood that the EA first appeared in the public domain in Section 42A Hearing Report of June 2, 2017. On November 23, 2017 The Hearing Panel of Commissioners approved the Council recommendations, including the EA.
Subject to having access to reticulated sewage, Council has provided a clear pathway for lot sizes to the minimum standard of 500m2, with potential for up to "274 additional residential lots" (Hearing Report 2017).
This, without spatial planning or infrastructure upgrades to support this level of population increase. The Expansion Area could potentially result in about 25 per cent of Parua Bay, scenic gateway to the Heads, becoming highly urbanised – with loss of rural character, sense of place and environmental amenity, all values that the Council, over the years, had committed to preserve.
Despite it being obvious that the EA addition would have "more than minor adverse effect" on the entire Parua Bay community, not even Limited Notification was undertaken by Council.
Many Parua Bay residents believe the Plan Change 85C process relating to the EA has been intentionally opaque and undemocratic.
Council is quick to ascribe justification to modifications of the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA). However, our understanding is that the RMA also stipulates that development will have regard for "the maintenance and enhancement of amenity values". Also, that the RMA has the intent to provide notification where "adverse effects are deemed to be more than minor".
In November 2018 the community submitted to Council a petition with nearly 400 signatures expressing its concerns. As well as its expectations that, prior to approving high-density housing, Council should carry out planning to assess potential impacts and conduct transparent consultations with the community.
The concerns of residents cannot easily be dismissed as "nimbyism". They recognise and accept that Parua Bay is a growth node but do expect to have input on how development is undertaken and on the future face of their community.
- The Parua Bay Residents and Ratepayers Association Inc.