One of Auckland's most prized volcanic craters has been protected from a proposal to build 575 homes.
The privately owned Crater Hill, on the edge of the Manukau Harbour at Papatoetoe, and the elite soils of Pūkaki Peninsula are to remain protected from residential development and future urbanisation after an Environment Court decision.
The court declined an appeal by the Self Family Trust and adjacent landowners against Auckland Council's Unitary Plan, which zones Crater Hill and Pūkaki Peninsula as rural land outside the Rural Urban Boundary.
We've been successful in protecting what we consider to be a remarkable part of our unique volcanic landscape
John Self, whose family have farmed the 107ha land holding for 91 years, said he did not think the decision was fair when the family was trying to do the best thing for the land.
The family trust had proposed up to 300 houses in the eastern part of the site by the Southwestern Motorway and up to 275 houses on the lower slopes of the crater.
"We thought it was marvellous. It would have been beautiful for the amount of land left over to go into parkland," said Self, saying the decision had virtually made the land worthless.
"We basically want to get out. We have had enough. It's just too close to town to be a farm," he said.
The Unitary Plan independent hearings panel recommended allowing urbanisation subject to proper rules, but this was rejected by the council.
Parts of Pūkaki Peninsula were favoured by landowners as a Future Urban zone allowing urbanisation over areas of very productive land in the future, said the council.
Geologist and author of Volcanoes of Auckland Bruce Hayward has described Crater Hill as the second best preserved volcano in South Auckland after Mangere Mountain. It is ranked the eighth most valued volcano in a report to the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, which is assessing the case for nominating Auckland's volcanoes for World Heritage status.
Councillor Chris Darby, who chairs the planning committee, said the appeal was a test of the Unitary Plan provisions.
"At the time the Unitary Plan was introduced, we were acutely aware of the need to protect the 'green lungs' of Auckland and ensure that the natural and cultural landscape of Auckland would be safeguarded.
"We've been successful in protecting what we consider to be a remarkable part of our unique volcanic landscape."
The Environment Court decision by Judge Jon Jackson and Environment Commissioners Eileen von Dadelszen and James Baines said that while the decision would have implications for housing elsewhere in the city, housing demand was not a simple issue. It was not a case of "push the balloon of supply in here and it will bulge out elsewhere".
Taking into account the existing markets available for housing the court was satisfied its decision would have minimal impact on housing supply and prices.
"Standing back and looking at all relevant considerations, properly weighted, we consider that Auckland Council drew the Rural Urban Boundary in the correct place so as to exclude Pūkaki Peninsula and Crater Hill," the decision said.