A lobby group opposed to a contentious state housing project in Northland has lodged a petition in Parliament, calling on the highest law-making body to investigate the proposed development.
The move is another spanner in the works for Kāinga Ora which has been given the greenlight by independent commissioners to build 37 state houses on 3.2ha of land on Puriri Park Rd zoned for residential housing by the Whangārei District Council.
The 371-signature petition by Puriri Park and Maunu Residents Society was presented to Parliament on May 25 and has been referred to the Social Services and Community Committee for consideration.
Petitioners have been invited to make written submissions and encouraged to provide further background information by June 26 about the matters outlined in the petition.
The petition calls on Parliament to inquire into the actions and policies of all parties, including local government and government departments, past and present, in regard to the use, purchase, consenting, and development of land in question at Puriri Park Rd.
It also wants an inquiry leading up to and including the current development by Kāinga Ora and its predecessor Housing New Zealand. The land was originally owned by the Ministry of Education - which sold it to HNZ - and was not part of neighbouring Puriri Park.
"The petition is about trying to save a park. Our message has been consistent throughout and the reason we started the society was to save green space," society chairman Trevor Reader said.
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He said his members would request that Parliament allow them to make oral presentation and for the Social Services and Community Committee to allow submissions from the several hundred members of the Maunu community who also wished to be heard.
"This demonstrates the community's determination and the value they place on saving valuable green space," he said.
House next to proposed development could be historical
The proposed development hit a snag last month when the society lodged an application with Heritage New Zealand for a house, next to where the state houses are to be built, to be designated a heritage site.
Kāinga Ora contractors arrived to demolish the house to make way for a road leading to and from the new houses, only to learn about the application.
The historical value of the house came to light from journal entries and photos provided to the society by the Auckland-based granddaughter of William Hector McBeath — presumably the first person to build on the site.
Records show McBeath's family lived in two tents before the house was built and that William McBeath's son Lawrence was born in one of the tents.
Lawrence died in 2012 at age 95 in Selwyn Park Retirement Village, about 300m from the house, and his daughter dug out old photos and journals that formed part of the Heritage NZ claim.
A Kāinga Ora spokesman said the Crown entity was aware of the petition and said it was too soon to speculate what impact the society's action, including its application to Heritage New Zealand, would have on the proposed development.
"In response to community concerns, Kāinga Ora voluntarily notified the application for resource consent for our proposed development to ensure a transparent, independent process which took community feedback into consideration.
"As we were not the agency which approved the land in question for sale or development, we have no further comment to make on the petition."
The spokesman said Kāinga Ora was getting the heritage value of the house on its land assessed, and would come back to the community with the results of that assessment.
Heritage New Zealand's area manager for Northland, Bill Edwards, said the only protection for the house next to the proposed state housing development would be through the District Plan.
He said HNZ would identify the heritage values and the significance of the place and prepare a report that would be forwarded to the Whangārei District Council.
Scheduling by WDC under the Resource Management Act in the District Plan was what provided protection, he said.
Edwards said WDC, if it wished, could commission a report by a specialist that would identify heritage values.
"There has been information supplied that illustrates that the Victoria Cross winner, flying officer Lloyd Trigg lived in the house for part of his life which is quite important."
WDC manager RMA consents Murray McDonald said he was "very confident" of the process the council followed when considering the resource consent for the proposed state housing development.
He said HNZ's application to build state houses was publicly notified which allowed the public to raise issues in submissions that were then considered under the Resource Management Act, and District Plan rules, by independent commissioners.
McDonald said if HNZ decided to list the house as a heritage building, that would be a matter for the developers to consider.
"If Heritage New Zealand asks council to list the building in its District Plan, council would consider this information as part of the District Plan rolling review."
He said any change to the District Plan must be completed using the schedule 1 process of the RMA.
A plan change, he said, was a publicly-notified process that involved submissions, hearings and an appeal period that usually took about 18 months.
"During that time, the building has no protection under the District Plan," McDonald said.