The proposed $1 billion Sleepyhead development in Ohinewai, which would see hundreds of jobs created along with the development of housing and small businesses, came under scrutiny at a resource consent hearing this week as Sleepyhead fights for the rezoning of the land.
The Sleepyhead company's community master plan for an industrial, residential and commercial development on 178 hectares at Ohinewai requires rezoning from rural in the proposed Waikato District Plan.
The approach of Waikato Regional Council and NZTA to land use planning is "an overly conservative, outdated and doctrinaire fixed point in time" attitude, the resource consent hearing for the $1 billion Sleepyhead development proposal for north Waikato heard in the early days of the hearing.
Legal submissions on behalf of the company on the first day of the hearing said the proposal was strongly supported by the Waikato District Council, tangata whenua and local residents, including Huntly business and community representatives.
Opponents were the "old guard" in the Waikato Regional Council, the NZ Transport Agency and to a slightly lesser degree, the Future Proof Implementation Committee, the submissions said.
"With all due respect, we submit that this 'black letter' approach to land use planning reflects an overly conservative, outdated, and doctrinaire 'fixed point in time' approach that fails to recognise the significant one-off opportunity that the Sleepyhead Estate proposal represents," said the legal submissions.
The approach of the two was also inconsistent with, or "conveniently overlooks", a Future Proof summary statement that the Future Proof settlement pattern needed "to be agile enough to respond to change".
The distinction between the position adopted by the regional council, NZTA and Future Proof as compared with the enthusiastic support of the WDC, local iwi represented by the Tangata Whenua Governance Group and Huntly locals was best epitomised by the phrase "opportunity versus orthodoxy", said the legal submission.
The concept of the Sleepyhead Estate and the philosophy underpinning the proposal was for a large industrial development that made provision for a community where people could eat, sleep, live, work and play in one place, Turner's submission said.
On hearing day three, a major neighbouring landowner said its plans for housing would be complementary.
In a submission to the independent commissioners, Ohinewai Lands says along with an associated interest company Waikare Lands, it owns more than 1300ha in the wider Ohinewai area to the north and south of Sleepyhead group's site.
It said Ohinewai Lands had not sought to rezone through the proposed Waikato District Plan but wanted to ensure rezoning was not precluded in the future.
On Future Proof's opposition, Ohinewai Lands said as it was embedded in the wider Waikato regional planning strategy it had to be given more weight than Waikato 2070 - but it was due for a long-awaited update this year.
Waikato Chamber of Commerce chief executive Don Good said Waikato Regional councillors seem to have become anti-business.
"You can understand why Waikato District mayor Allan Sanson and his council are enthusiastic for the development. The economic impact through the region will be immense. At a time when businesses are struggling, a development like this is a cornerstone project in the district's recovery.
"However, in vehemently opposing the application to turn 176 hectares of farmland into a development that would host a new 100,000 square metre factory, as well as 1100 affordable houses for staff, the Waikato Regional Council has turned its back on attracting economic development.
"What message are Waikato Regional councillors sending to business? Is it a case of you come up with a great idea and we will oppose you tooth and nail? This is a flagship project that should say to all and sundry that the Waikato is open for business and we want you to come here and be successful. This is opportunity."
Good said NZTA is also opposing the application "after creating such a wonderful set of on and off ramps to the Waikato Expressway at Ohinewai, presumably for just this purpose".
"I encourage Russ Rimmington to be clear to business – the signal he is sending to business is 'don't come to the Waikato'. We need to know if he in favour of economic development and more jobs for the Waikato or is his council anti-business?" Good said.
-Additional reporting Waikato News