As more people come to live on the island they expect the same service standards they’ve been used to in the city. This means there is constant tension between those who would prefer the island not only to stay as it is but retreat into some imagined 1970s paradise, as reflected by the Local Board, those who want to see the essential semi-rural character retained but continue to reflect the needs of a more progressive society, and those who want to see far more development and land changes to turn Waiheke well and truly into a suburb of Auckland.
Therefore it is not surprising that land zoning issues continue, and will continue, to be a battleground on the island. This can be seen in today’s Herald where the Spencer family and Auckland Council are going head to head over the District Plan.
Scrap over zoning of land on Waiheke
Waiheke's biggest landowner is challenging zoning classifications on parts of its holdings on the island's eastern tip in the Stony Batter Historic Reserve war fortifications vicinity.
Matt Casey, QC, appeared for Man O'War Station in the High Court at Auckland yesterday in the case against Auckland Council, represented by barrister John Burns.
Man O'War Station is owned by Stony Batter Estate and its sole director is Berridge Spencer, part of the rich lister Spencer family.
The argument over zoning classifications on Waiheke and parts of neighbouring Ponui Island is about what parts should be declared outstanding natural landscapes.
That classification means the land would have certain protections under the Resource Management Act. The land stretches from Owhiti Bay to Man O'War Bay and around the coast, including Hulse Bay, Waiti Bay, Anita Bay and Hooks Bay.
Land above that spectacular coastline is used for many purposes including farming, horticulture, grape growing for the Spencers' award-winning Man O'War Vineyards and olives.
High Court Justice Pamela Andrews is hearing Man O'War's appeal against the 2013 Environment Court ruling on the land.
Federated Farmers is supporting Man O'War and the Environmental Defence Society supports the council.
Man O'War has not disputed that its holdings include outstanding natural landscapes, but is challenging the extent of that classification. Disputed areas are at the eastern end of Waiheke and parts of Ponui Island.
The Environment Court partly upheld the council's position on the extent of the outstanding natural landscape zoning, but reduced the size of areas so classified.
Man O'War's appeal to the High Court claims the Environment Court made errors of law in reaching its decision.
It argues the Environment Court did not take into account possible future modification of outstanding natural landscape property with activities such as pastoral farming and horticulture - all permitted activities in the district plan.
The outstanding landscape classification would unreasonably stop Man O'War establishing or expanding activities on its land, it argues.
The council's case is that the Environment Court applied the right test in deciding which land was outstanding natural landscape.
If the district plan permits activities that adversely affect outstanding natural landscapes, the council says the answer is to change the district plan, not the landscape classification.
However, the PAUP’s regional policy statement will override elements of the District Plan. That is why landowning developers are making every effort to introduce changes into the PAUP that will affect the land zoning on the western part of the island so that they can intensify housing development there. For example, the Walden family submission wants to change the Rural Urban Boundary (RUB) so their 50 hectares of land behind the golf course, which is currently zoned as ‘Green Belt’, can be reclassified as bush residential with an 80 house suburb.
This is ironic, even hypocritical, when the Chair of the Local Board Paul Walden, a Board whose only vision is to take the island back to the 1970s, is,in reality, the face of intensive development on the island.
I will be taking a closer look at the issues surrounding the RUB tomorrow.