Court victory boost for developers

SIMON MAUDE
Last updated 05:00 25/02/2014

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A property development company say a win in the Environment Court has given it the "confidence" to get on with its high-rise plans.

The Milford Centre, a subsidiary of the New Zealand Retail Property Group (NZRPG), won an appeal against Auckland Council in the Environment Court.

"We've now got the confidence to get on with the resource consent process," NZRPG general manager Campbell Barbour says.

The court decision "confirms that Milford Centre is an appropriate location for residential intensification", Mr Barbour says.

The company had wanted to build up to 17 storeys above Milford Mall which it owns.

Auckland Council and the Milford Residents Association (MRA) objected to Milford Mews, an eight-building development, saying intensification was incompatible with Milford's village-like character.

The MRA fears allowing taller buildings will cast "gloomy" shadows over Milford's retail centre.

Bill Loutit, a lawyer for the council, told the court that in its existing form NZRPG's plans would create powerful, negative effects for the area.

The court upheld the NZRPG's appeal but limited their highest buildings to 11 or 12 storeys.

In 2013, the NZRPG took the case to the Environment Court after independent commissioners upheld the council's decision.

Debbie Dunsford, co-chairwoman of the MRA, says although the association and council failed to stop a height increase, that increase was limited.

"We expected a compromise, we always expected something would happen on the site," she says.

"The NZRPG tried to bulldoze this through, but the court vindicated our position, that what was being applied for was excessive," Ms Dunsford says.

Since 2008, she estimates the MRA spent more than $100,000 on legal bills including sourcing expert witnesses.

That year, the NZRPG announced that under the Resource Management Act, it was seeking a local plan change to build the new complex which would include three 16-storey apartment towers.

More than 1000 submissions opposed the plan change.

"We've had incredible support from the community. The staying power and support over five and a half years has been incredible," Ms Dunford says.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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