Hawke's Bay Sikhs need a new place of worship. So is the Hastings District Council being unfair in denying the consent the community needs to build it?

The first Sikhs arrived in Hawke's Bay in the late 1980s. There are now more than 1500 in the region, and that small gurudwara on Eastbourne St in central Hastings is nowhere near big enough.

They've bought land on Richmond Rd and want to build on the "Plains Production Zone" land.


The council has said no.

It is "ad hoc development" that will "individually or cumulatively reduce the life-supporting capacity and economic use of the soil resource and its availability for future generations" and represents a creep of urban activities where there was a clear urban boundary, the council said in denying it.

Sikhs in the region are understandably upset at being denied and they're pitching again to council, which will hear the community's concerns on July 29.

Let's put to the side the argument about how much urban creep should be allowed around Hastings at all, given the incredible soil the city sits on.

Let's look at precedent, and fairness to a community that offers so much to this region, not least of which is a free meal to anyone who walks in off the street.

Both the Peak Vision and Village Baptist churches near Havelock North are on land that could be seen as similar to that which the new gurudwara is proposed for.

They were consented because they were permitted activities under the previous Hastings District Council's 2003 District Plan.

The previous District Plan was more permissive when it came to establishing places of assembly (of which churches are a subset) in rural areas.


The HPUDS (Heretaunga Plains Urban Development Strategy 2010), which guides where urban development is to occur, identified the issue of places of assembly being established on productive land in rural areas.

It recommended the District Plans be tightened up to control loss of productive land to developments that had no direct relationship to the versatile land and land based primary production activities.

As a result, the Proposed Hastings District Plan (which came into effect in September 2015) made it a non-complying activity for new places of assembly to establish in rural areas.

The fact is, Sikhs arrived in numbers in Hawke's Bay over the past 30 years. Well after Christians.

Too late?

And now, no matter how many of them there are, they won't get to build the place of worship they really want.

That doesn't seem all that fair.