A company planning to build the Far North's biggest retirement village on a quiet Kerikeri street has committed to widening the road, installing a footpath and other "public good" projects around the town.
The agreement, struck between Auckland-based Arvida and the Far North District Council, is expected to allay Hall Rd residents' concerns about traffic safety on their narrow, dead-end street, and reassure ratepayers who feared they would end up paying for public infrastructure needed for the 18ha, $120 million development comprising 200 villas and apartments and an 80-bed care facility.
Hall Rd resident David Clendon was pleased to hear the good intentions of the council and Arvida, but they would now have to be supported by action that protected the interests of residents and the wider Kerikeri community.
Both mayor John Carter and council CEO Shaun Clarke had expressed their enthusiasm for the proposal, but similar statements of support for the legitimate concerns of existing ratepayers had been conspicuously absent.
"The comments about timing of roading and safety improvements are ambiguous; it is a bottom line for residents that this work must be done before any earthworks or construction begins," Mr Clendon said. "Residents in Rainbow Falls Rd, affected by the Quail Ridge development, are still waiting for a roading upgrade and footpaths six years after work on that project began."
Meanwhile it was "misleading and offensive" for the council to say it had invited Hall Rd residents to make submissions. Residents had always asked for the proposal, a large-scale commercial activity in a residential area, to be fully notified, which would give all ratepayers an opportunity to comment.
"The council's decision to limit notification, and therefore the right to make submissions to only a handful of households has denied most Hall Rd residents, and other ratepayers, who will bear much of the cost, any opportunity to express their views," he added.
"Residents who asked to be included as 'affected persons', including one who has lived in Hill Rd for almost 70 years, were told they should apply to the High Court for a judicial review, at a likely cost of tens of thousands of dollars.
"Residents have already had to spend thousands of dollars on consultants, just to ensure their concerns about road safety and potential damage to property are listened to by the council and Arvida. It would be a show of good faith if their costs were reimbursed from any Arvida contribution."
Mr Clendon noted that a nearby subdivision, begun when the council was requiring development contributions, was charged more than $500,000 for a 30-section development. Using that baseline ($17,600 per dwelling), a reasonable contribution from Arvida for its many times larger project would be around $4 million.
"Anything less would mean a ratepayer subsidy for this commercial venture," he said.
"The claimed economic benefits from the development are over-stated too. It is unlikely that local firms will see much of the work during construction. The long-term jobs will be mostly aged care positions, which are notoriously low-paid. Existing operators already indicate a shortage of workers."