Orakei high-rises under fire

Determined residents and politicians are still fighting proposed 13-storey apartment blocks on the Orakei headlands.

Last month property developer Redwood Group unveiled three master plan options for the site, developed in conjunction with Auckland City Council officers.

Redwood’s preferred option is for 1000 apartments, including two 13-storey residential towers.

Developer Tony Gapes wants Aucklanders to accept those high-rise blocks in return for waterfront access and a large chunk of coastal land, which he argues the site currently lacks.

The proposal hit strong opposition from city councillor Aaron Bhatnagar, who labelled it a "Shanghai surprise" at last month’s Hobson Community Board meeting.

"I want to see a development sympathetic with the area, rather than standing out," he says.

"I want to see respect for the coastal area, volcanic cones and height restrictions."

Mr Bhatnagar says the plan is far from a done deal.

"There’s a fair bit going on at the moment. I’m speaking with local community groups, council officers, residents and the Hobson Community Board.

"The people in the community have to tell us what outcomes they want there, not just that they don’t like it."

He hopes Redwood will consider the community feedback and come up with a more appropriate option.

Orakei Residents Society president Warren Tuohey is drumming up opposition to the high-density plan.

"We’ve got to make people aware of the huge change that could happen if this goes ahead," he says.

Green MP and Epsom candidate Keith Locke has also voiced criticism.

"We don’t want the Orakei headland looking like Hawaii’s Waikiki Beach or Queensland’s Gold Coast, where high-rises dominate the coastline," he says.

"Tower blocks undermine the relaxed, public recreational use of the area."

But Mr Gapes says feedback from two public open days at the site last month was "encouraging".

More than 400 people attended and "anecdotal feedback" showed 65 to 70 percent were in favour, he says.

"What we are finding is that the scale and size of the development is less of an issue than individual components of the plans, which people want carefully managed," he says.

While there are concerns about the twin tower proposal, Mr Gapes says "most people seem willing to accept that sort of scale once they understand the height is balanced against the provision of more green and public space and a raft of amenities that Redwood Group will provide".

A meeting for Orakei Residents Society members and anyone interested in the development will be held at 7.30pm on July 21 in the St James Anglican Church hall at 152 Kepa Rd, Orakei.

East And Bays Courier