Opua residents up in arms over a planned housing development are calling on the Far North District Council to halt the project and allow full public consultation.
Council-owned company Far North Holdings has been granted consent for a 16-lot subdivision on a ridge next to Franklin St that runs down to the port. The new homes would be accessed from Kellet St, next to Opua School.
The mostly scrub-covered ridge has previously been touted for a park, lookout or playground, but none of the plans have come to fruition.
Resource consent was granted without public notification in August and finalised in October.
• Ngāwhā business park could create more than 500 jobs, Far North Holdings says
• Executive to quit post at Far North Holdings
• Provincial Growth Fund's $1m helps Far North Holdings start Russell Wharf renovation
• Far North Enterprise Park attracts significant interest
Ron Cooke, an Opua resident of 40 years, said the development would have a major effect on the town. Earthworks would lower the Franklin St ridge by 10m, the school would lose already scarce parking, traffic congestion would increase and a stand of totara would be felled.
''It is a very rough piece of land, but it's all we have,'' he said.
Cooke is calling on the council to put the consent on hold and give the public a chance to make submissions — or better still, scrap the project and ask the community what they wanted done with the land.
He presented a petition with 292 names to last month's council meeting. It had since grown to 384 names.
Cooke said he was staggered that the only party deemed to be affected by the development, and the hence the only one to have a say, was the council's own roading department.
Kawakawa demolition clears way for town square
New Far North group aims for a council 'sea change'
In response the council said it was bound by rules set out in the Resource Management Act (RMA).
To avoid a conflict of interest the council had hired an independent planning consultant to assess the resource consent application, district services manager Dean Myburgh said.
After a thorough assessment the planner determined there would be no adverse impacts, as defined in the RMA, so limited notification to neighbouring property owners was not required. The planner also ruled out full public consultation.
"The application was for a residential activity, and these can only be publicly notified if there is a non-complying activity or where there are special circumstances. Neither applied in this case."
Far North Holdings chief executive Any Nock attended a public meeting hosted by community group Love Opua on November 30, at which Cooke said residents vehemently expressed their objections.
Cooke had been given an undertaking the company would meet members of a new action group, which would be set up today and called Save Opua's Soul.
Nock said the company had advised Opua of its plans for Kellet St site 19 months ago but had not received a single response. There had been nothing to update the community about until the consent was finalised in October.
The low-density housing development would include a central reserve and a fitness trail linking the school with a playground planned at the marina.
The company was working with the council on potential extra parking for the school.
Apart from preliminary earthworks any construction was at least two years away.
Company spokesman Peter Heath said the land, previously used for harbour board housing, had long been vacant and was providing ''less than satisfactory value'' to Far North ratepayers.
The company was tasked with getting the best commercial return it could for the council while balancing environmental, social and cultural outcomes.
Opua School 'majorly concerned'
A primary school next door to the planned Kellet St development is ''majorly concerned'' the resulting construction and residential traffic could endanger its children.
Opua School principal Simon McGowan said safety was everything at any primary school.
''We already have a really difficult environment at drop-off and pick-up time with a lot of parents converging in a small area, no bus and a lot of kids coming from out of Opua.''
The school had worked hard to get a turning circle for parents' cars but it was located where the entrance to the new subdivision would be.
Despite assurances McGowan said the school had not been kept in the loop.
''We were told at the beginning no consent would be issued without our board being fully informed but we found out in November it had already been consented. We couldn't believe it. We are majorly concerned that a dangerous situation will get worse,'' he said.