American billionaire Peter Thiel is prepared to dispense with a planned meditation pod as he seeks resource consent for a proposed mega house in Wanaka.
Thiel is challenging a Queenstown Lakes District Council decision to decline consent for the development, and his lawyers have just lodged their closing arguments on his behalf to an ongoing commissioner's hearing.
Mr Thiel's lawyers have just lodged their closing arguments on his behalf to an ongoing commissioners hearing.
As a means of lessening the visual effects of the 330m-long, grass-roofed complex, particularly from the Glendhu Bay Track, Thiel had deleted the proposed meditation pod from his application, the submission said.
After that concession, Thiel's lawyers came out swinging, strongly challenging the value of the submissions of the Longview Environmental Trust and Upper Clutha Environmental Society against the proposed development, and questioning the validity of statements by QLDC staff.
The trust submissions "clearly illustrated a mindset determined to find a 'fatal flaw' in the application," Thiel's lawyers said.
Its view on the potential landscape impact of the house on the users of the Glendhu Bay Track was overstated and disregarded the sustainable management purpose of the RMA.
"(Its) approach demonstrates a single-minded advocacy which does not bother to engage with the important specifics of the applicant's expert evidence or the broader scope and intent of the RMA."
The UCES representative was "clearly and openly an advocate for environmental protection at all costs" and unable to present an objective view, the submission said.
QLDC staff and consultants were variously described as not fully informed, unconfident, and lacking understanding of the technical details of the application by Thiel's lawyers.
"The council staff/consultant responses to commissioner questions as to the specific basis for their opposition were generally weak or unconvincing, lacking in balance or credibility.
"It was almost as if little new thinking or re-evaluation of initial positions was possible."
Thiel's lawyers highlighted an extensive, 10-year replanting programme which would begin immediately after consent was granted.
"The re-planting strategy has been carefully thought through by the applicant's experts, and the sequence of works is an appropriate combination of mitigation and positive effects."
None of the claimed benefits of the development had been seriously challenged or reliably questioned such that the application should be declined they said.
• Substantive high-end tourism benefits in the Wanaka area;
• Extensive ecological benefits through revegetation;
• An exceptional architectural development; and
• Substantial upgrades to the Wanaka- Glendhu Bay track.
The original application for the complex, which is designed to include 10 guest accommodation units over a basement floor of 1165sqm, a private 565sqm owner's pod, and other management buildings, was deemed too big for the rural zone and outstanding natural landscape.