WHY THERE IS A GLENORCHY CASE IN THE ENVIRONMENT COURT?
Oct 21, 2015
This article was supplied by and published on request of Trish Fraser.
Understanding Why There is a Glenorchy Case in the Environment Court this Week
It is only possible for a case to reach the Environment Court when the Court considers there are real issues to be appealed or considered. The case this week presented by a Glenorchy Community member has met this criteria.
The Glenorchy Community has a very clear vision for the entranceway for its town. The vision was drawn up a number of years ago after a very thorough and detailed Community planning process.
The vision is for a wide open approach through the town with a tree-lined avenue, grassy verges and clear open views.
Since then much has been done to implement the vision. Council changed the rules in the District Plan for Glenorchy, strips of land have been taken for planting and a fair number of trees have been planted by the Community in accordance with the landscape plan in the Glenorchy Community vision. New buildings that have been built have all been set back 5 metres from their front boundary.
The Environment Court will be asked this week to modify Pounamu’s plans for ‘Camp Glenorchy’ that were approved by Council so that the Glenorchy Community Vision Plan is adhered to and the hard work and effort put in by the Community to date is not compromised and importantly it still remains possible to implement the long term vision.
Glenorchy’s vision plan and the rules in the District Plan state that buildings on Oban Street need to be set back 5 metres from their front boundary. The plans approved by Council allow the cabins to be built right onto the boundary.
The Reserves Act requires planting schemes etc. to be drawn up between Council and the Community and in this case the expectation is, Council would base their plan on the Glenorchy Community vision. Instead Pounamu approached and were given permission by Council, without consultation with the Community and contrary to the Community plan, to fence off significant parts of the Reserve. This effectively annexes it to their site as a front garden and access to the cabins, and allows planting of the Reserve in a way that is completely at odds with the Glenorchy Community plan. The approved planting will also cause safety hazards, shading and frosting of the roads in the winter and make it impossible to pass along the Reserve on horseback. Plans for Camp Glenorchy show cars parked along the road in front of the cabins where children cross to go to school.
The first drafts of Pounamu’s plans for the site that were widely circulated through the Community showed the cabins setback “to comply” with QLDC requirements and the Glenorchy Community plan. Along the way, more and more buildings and structures have been put on this site and the cabins have been pushed forward right up to the boundary foregoing the required 5 metre setback. Pounamu’s lawyers have argued this does not apply to them because of the poor wording in the District Plan. i.e. making use of a loophole. The Environment Court is being asked to re-write the setback rule to remove the claimed ambiguity that is in the existing rules and to confirm the outcome of the clear decision made by the hearing panel when Council changed the rules at the request of the Community i.e all buildings setback 5 metres from the beautification strip along Oban Street.
The beautification strip is public Reserve and what happens there or is planted or built-on it must be agreed after an open, Council lead consultation process. In this instance Pounamu were given permission to undertake landscaping works without any reference to the Community before being given that permission.
Under the guise of protecting planting three quarters of the public Reserve will be enclosed by a fence. The landscaping will make it impossible to use the reserve to pass along on horseback. The intention is to plant a significant number of beech trees (50). This will cause shading, frosting, loss of views from properties on the other side of the road and is contrary to Councils own tree policy*
The existing deciduous trees that were planted by the Community in accordance with the vision plan, don’t cause shading or frosting in the winter. The trees that are planted on that Reserve represent the first steps in achieving a tree-lined avenue along the entranceway to Glenorchy and this work has been further continued as can be seen by the individual trees planted between Campbelltown and Glenorchy.
The proposal to remove these trees and replace them with dense plantings of beech and other natives totally undermines any chance of the Community long term vision of the entranceway being achieved.
There has been a lot of implied criticism by some in the Community, of the court action and resulting delay in the construction of Camp Glenorchy. At the end of the day if the plans for Camp Glenorchy met with the rules in the district plan there would be no case in the Environment Court.
It is a very daunting and un-rewarding job to stand up to the unlimited resources of developers and the continual obstruction by Council. It shouldn’t be too much to ask that Council follow the due process that protects the rights of the Community as a whole.
Having strong-minded individuals in our Community who stand up and speak for what they believe to be right is part of what makes Glenorchy what it is. It will be a sad day when we lose our integrity and self-belief. It is a sad day when we are prepared to sell out our integrity and our beliefs to the highest bidder.
Glenorchy is undergoing rapid growth and change. There is no point in the Community producing visions if we allow them to be overturned at the first opportunity. If they are, Glenorchy will be a much poorer place as result
The hearing is in Queenstown in the courtrooms at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday 21 October and is open to the public.
By: Trish Fraser