A Mangawhai residents group is looking to appeal Kaipara District Council's green light towards intensifying a $750 million urban development in the middle of their coastal hamlet.
"We will be seriously considering appealing the decision," Doug Lloyd, chair of community group Mangawhai Matters said.
Kaipara District Council (KDC) yesterday in Dargaville decided in favour of a private plan change application for one of New Zealand's biggest coastal urban development projects – at Mangawhai.
Housing intensification with a doubling of the number of dwellings in the development is at the crux of the private plan change. What had been 500 dwellings in initial 2007 plans for the area can now in principle become 1000 under the successful private plan change application.
KDC's 6-2 vote in favour of the application sees the intensification move a step closer.
Deputy mayor Anna Curnow was out of the room and did not participate in discussions or voting as she was a member of the three-person commissioner group which recommended the council accept the private plan change application.
The decision next has to be publicly notified – scheduled for May 7 - with 30 working days from then for those who wish to appeal it in the Environment Court.
Mangawhai Matters was among 208 submitters on the Mangawhai Central private plan change application, those who had issues with the plan change predominating.
Lloyd said his community group was not necessarily against the development.
But he wanted to see the necessary infrastructure to support the development's presence, and now potential intensification, was in place.
A panel of commissioners, made up of two independent specialists and Curnow, reviewed quantities of material which included taking infrastructure provision into account and still made the decision to recommend KDC decided in favour of the application.
But the hangover of Mangawhai's longstanding issues with huge cost blowouts over original estimates for an earlier sewerage scheme were still clearly in people's minds at yesterday's debate, Lloyd said.
The massive cost blowout resulted in KDC being taken over by commissioners who then stayed at the council helm for New Zealand's longest tenure of that type.
Lloyd said his group's concerns over the provision of adequate wastewater and drinking water services for the development had not been allayed at the council meeting and hearing the public plan change application debate.
The commissioners, and KDC staff, first recommended the private plan change application be accepted by the council in March.
But at its March 31 meeting in Mangawhai, councillors took the highly unusual step of not doing so – citing lack of time to consider the 277-page supporting documentation - and the decision was put off until yesterday.
A heated and often tense 1.5 hour debate yesterday resulted in the majority vote to accept the plan change application with Mayor Dr Jason Smith, and councillors Karen Joyce-Paki, Mark Vincent, Peter Wethey, David Wills, Eryn Wilson-Collins voting in favour of doing so.
Councillors Victoria del la Varis-Woodcock and Jonathan Larsen voted against.
The councillors were told by council lawyer Warren Bangma that there would be the prospect of a judicial review if they voted not to go ahead with the private plan change application.
"Rejecting (the recommendation) is what I would describe as legally fraught," Bangma said.
"It creates the possibility of ending up in the High Court and then Environment Court."
Smith said consideration of the private plan change application was the biggest and most detailed councillors had been involved with in his time as Mayor.
He said there had been due diligence, to an extremely high level, done on the matter.
Smith said council had followed due process. The purpose of yesterday's vote had been simply to decide whether councillors felt commissioners had done their job or not in recommending the private plan change be accepted.
He said KDC had to make a decision. The amount of effort involved in reaching this point was unprecedented.
"It was a massive whale we had to swallow," Smith said.
He said there were many steps in the process yet to come, among these the resource consent process.
The outcome of yesterday's decision has been closely awaited around New Zealand, the possibility of councillors voting against the decision real and nationally unprecedented.
A decision against accepting the plan change would have meant significant costs for ratepayers, a rehearing and almost definitely an appeal from the developer.
About 4000 people live in Mangawhai, Northland's fastest-growing area – and one of the quickest developing locations in New Zealand. The developer's updated plans would add about 2500 people to that.
"This is obviously a significant decision for Mangawhai and Kaipara District, we have got to get it right," Wethey said.