A proposal to build up to 1000 homes and a business area in a rapidly growing Northland seaside town is shaping up as a David-and-Goliath battle.
Auckland-based Mangawhai Central Ltd has applied to Kaipara District Council for a Private Plan change to develop about 130 hectares of former sheep and beef grazing land between Mangawhai Village and Mangawhai Heads.
Touted as one of the biggest coastal township commercial developments in New Zealand history, the proposal includes a light industrial business park, supermarket, retail shopping centre, retirement village and residential enclave.
Society chairman Doug Lloyd said smaller, dotted developments were welcome but a single concentrated, urban-style suburb would be unmanageable.
"We're a country village but there are baches, quarter acre sections, no fences, and the place has really been turned into Millwater. We're not against holding back growth or development but they must be sustainable.
"The application for a Plan Change wasn't well notified and so locals didn't understand what was going on until about three weeks before submissions closed. For a small town like this, the number of submissions is phenomenal," he said.
The plan to build up to 1000 residential houses and commercial development next to Molesworth Drive relies on the green light from independent commissioners Greg Hill, David Hill, and Kaipara deputy mayor Anna Curnow.
The district council has recommended approving the Plan Change with modifications and prepared a report for the hearing commissioners, as it was required to do under the Resource Management Act.
It now faces the prospect of nearly 86 per cent of more than 200 submitters being opposed to the development. It's believed the number of submissions from a small town like Mangawhai towards a proposed development of this nature is unprecedented in Northland.
A three-day hearing was held from Monday to Wednesday this week.
The independent commissioners have asked the council and Mangawhai Central Ltd to provide further information and will get together early next year to assess it.
Key changes recommended by the council relate to ecology, natural hazards, open and green spaces, traffic, roading, stormwater and water supply.
The site is subject to the council's Estuary Estates Structure Plan that caps residential house numbers to 500 — provisions Mangawhai Central Ltd felt were overly restrictive
Opponents believe the company's plans will place immense pressure on key infrastructure, particularly on water supply and roading, and significantly increase Mangawhai's population.
One of those vehemently opposed is Mangawhai Matters Society, a voluntary organisation established in August 2019 because of the community's concern about the management of the town's growth.
Lawyer Michael Savage, who put in a legal submission on behalf of the society, said the Plan Change proposed to introduce to the Mangawhai community an additional 1000 to 1200 households that would result in about a 50 per cent increase in the area's population.
He said Mangawhai Central Ltd's application did not reflect the area's attraction as a seaside town, its eclectic mix of housing types, and generally low-density housing.
The problem, he said, would be exacerbated by the need to have water tanks and to make provision for vehicles, boats, and jetski trailers on small sections.