"Look out Auckland!"
That's the warning from a member of a North Shore residents' action group after it lost a battle to stop a new retirement development rising above Ngataringa Bay.
Iain Rea of the Ngataringa Bay Action Group says the rest of Auckland should beware after the fight which saw 305 submissions opposing the scheme, 73 in support and residents engaged experts and make extensive presentations.
"Look out Auckland! Communities throughout all the rest of the city should now take note: even after almost unprecedented opposition to a project as big as this, it still gets consent," a disappointed Rea said.
Hearing commissioners Kitt Littlejohn and John Hill this week granted consent for Ryman to go ahead but fellow commissioner Dave Serjeant dissented.
Ryman will now spend up to 40 months building 195 independent living units, 78 apartments, a 120-bed hospital, 269 carparks, indoor pool, theatre, games room, library, sales office, salon, shops, workshop, laundry and a transformer substation on a 4.2ha greenfields site.
Opponents challenged the village on the grounds of the historic Duder Brickworks, effects on the coastal edge, construction effects, appearance and design and traffic and congestion on the busy Lake Rd between Devonport and Takapuna, used by 18,600 vehicles every weekday and one of Auckland's most congested roads.
"The decision obviously has implications beyond the Takapuna-Devonport peninsula," Rea said after independent hearing commissioners granted resource consent for Ryman Healthcare to build its huge new village on the Wakakura site.
Rea fears other parts of Auckland could now see massive development flying in the face of community opposition and he doubted communities' ability to be heard.
Even worse, the panel did not issue a unanimous decision, Rea said.
"The Ngataringa Bay Action Group is extremely disappointed that the hearing panel considering the resource consent application to build and operate a retirement village at Ngataringa Bay has made a split decision to grant it," Rea said referring to commissioner Dave Serjeant's opposition.
"Despite conditions being agreed between council and the applicant during the hearing - some in response to submissions - and despite the applicant reducing two of the six buildings by a storey, (B04 from three to two, B02 from six to five), the large number of public and professional submissions made - many asking for a complete rejection of the application - mean the community is concerned to examine whether its concerns have been heard.
"The 87-page decision, including commissioner and planner Dave Serjeant's dissenting opinion, will take some time to read and understand," Rea said.
The commissioners said they had dealt with all the contentious issues and heard from 40 submitters in person.
"Even amongst those persons who submitted against the proposal, there was virtually unanimous support for the use of the site as a retirement village. Such support was often based on the recognition of the growing needs of an ageing population for a smaller home and for medical and support facilities and the lack of such facilities generally and in this part of the North Shore in particular," the decision said.
Around 70 per cent of submissions raised concerns about traffic but the report went into some detail on this aspect.
"Development of the site for residential housing would generate similar, if not more, traffic impacts on the local roading network, potentially at more congested times of the day," the panel's decision said.
"The site is undeveloped and its future occupants must have a legitimate expectation to use common access (i.e. roads) and related resources for day-to-day access and egress," the panel said.
Whether any appeal will be lodged with the Environment Court is not yet known.
Andrew Mitchell, Ryman development manager, welcomed the outcome on Monday.
"We are pleased with the decision and we know that the more than 300 residents we already have on our waiting list will be even happier. We are really looking forward to bringing much-needed care to the Devonport community and this is an important step along the way.
"We will be working through the detail of the panel's findings, so it is too early to talk about possible timeframes to start work.
"Finally, we'd like to thank the commissioners for their time and professionalism in hearing the application," Mitchell said.