Disagreement stalls development at showcase beach

Another development backdown at a world-famous Coromandel beach has renewed calls for authorities to buy the land for good.

But Coromandel's MP is doubtful about any immediate buy-out at New Chums Beach, where a subdivision had been planned until the application was pulled this week following a disagreement between the co-owners of the site.

It marked a new twist in tension between different subdivision projects and groups and locals battling to keep the area free of development.

The white sand beach, ranked by Lonely Planet and others as among the most beautiful on the planet, is reachable only by walking across a headland from nearby Whangapoua.

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The application, lodged by Ross and Deidre Mear, would not have affected access to the beach but included a nearby four-lot subdivision, each allowing for house sites and accessory buildings, along with a fifth "conservation lot" to be managed by a proposed charitable trust.

The Mears, who own a 50 per cent share in the property with another family trust owning the other half, withdrew the plans late on Monday afternoon, a month after hearings were suspended by a last-minute disagreement between the co-owners around access arrangements to the beach. Mr Mear could not be reached for comment yesterday.

John Drummond, whose group Preserve New Chums was among 187 submitters on the plan, welcomed the backdown as "great news" but said unless it was bought and preserved as a conservation block, battles would continue.

A separate application for development on the exact same piece of land had been placed on hold as more information was being sought from the applicant, Coastal Land Trust Holdings.

With the Mears' plans now off the table, Mr Drummond said the time was right to revive previous talks around a buy-out of the land.

Another long-time campaigner, Linda Cholmondeley Smith, also demanded action.

"If we were preserving a threatened species of bird, fish or plant this would have been resolved long ago."

TV personality Phil Keoghan, who has joined the fight alongside other celebrities including Robyn Malcolm and rugby star Richard Kahui, said Kiwis needed to think about whether they might regret the decisions made today.

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TV personality Phil Keoghan is part of the campaign to preserve New Chums.
TV personality Phil Keoghan is part of the campaign to preserve New Chums.

But a Thames-Coromandel District Council spokesperson yesterday said it didn't have the resources to buy the land outright, while Coromandel MP Scott Simpson said that solution required a willing seller and buyer, and he understood there was presently neither.

Environmental Defence Society chairman Gary Taylor, who has been part of discussions, said the best way forward might be allowing some sensitive, modest development in the back of the property and permanently protecting the beachfront as part of the deal.

"It's probably too expensive for public purchase and development aspirations are not going away - we're keen to continue to talk with the owners to find an enduring solution."

Beach battle

• Subdivision plans for New Chums Beach, announced in 2010, triggered mass protests.

• Landowners the New Zealand Coastal Trust that year offered to sell it to the Crown and give back half the proceeds if the Government matched, but a deal never eventuated.

• A separate application for a four-lot subdivision was lodged last year, but was withdrawn this week following a disagreement with other co-owners.

• Plans by the New Zealand Coastal Trust remain on hold as more information was being sought from the applicant.