Neighbours fight church

DUBBY HENRY
Last updated 13:40 05/02/2013
CHurch War
OPPOSED: Neighbours Valerie Campbell and Steven Ellery – pictured with his daughter Isabella – are against a proposal to build an Exclusive Brethren church on their rural road.

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The Exclusive Brethren Church wants to set up its new home on a rural Papakura road but residents are vowing to fight it.

Council hearings start tomorrow to decide whether to grant a resource consent for the church, under the name of the Papakura Gospel Hall Trust, to build a 788-seat building at the end of Park Estate Rd.

Parking for 204 cars, or 181 cars and nine buses, and seating for up to 950 people are planned for the 1.2 hectare site, as well as 8 metre-tall floodlights, soundproof boundary walls and a stormwater treatment pond to discharge into the estuary.

The site would be used exclusively as a church, not for social activities but church services could run seven days a week from as early as 5.30am and as late as 9.30pm.

Planners have recommended the application be granted unless new evidence is provided but the few neighbours aren't happy about the changes to their quiet street.

Resident of 25 years Val Campbell has vowed to cause a fuss at tomorrow's hearing with concerns over traffic, noise and visual pollution.

"If every single neighbour and person in the community doesn't want it, how does it get this far?"

She says it would be "unrealistic" not to expect eventual development as the site is zoned future urban and is near central Papakura. But she understood no development would start before 2020.

She and husband Dave have been blindsided by the proposal, which could see building within six months.

Steven Ellery and his family bought their property in 2011 on the street where his wife's parents have lived for 30 years.

The council did not tell him of the development, despite repeated requests for information. He was "just gutted" when he heard the news, he says.

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"We would never have bought the property if we knew that was coming."

Traffic is the Ellerys' biggest worry.

Council and resident estimates of traffic counts vary wildly and Mr Ellery estimates the church will increase tenfold the number of cars driving past his house.

He says members have been meeting on Sunday mornings already, with SUVs waking the family at 5.30am.

The church has confirmed a small congregation has been celebrating Holy Communion at the site.

"That's just a small number of people meeting in a house," Mr Ellery says. "It's just going to get worse."

Residents east of the bridge, including Park Estate School, were not notified of the proposal.

The neighbours say it's the placement, not the church itself, that they are fighting.

"I couldn't care less if it was Catholics, Exclusive Brethren, whoever," Mr Ellery says.

The building would blend in better at a commercial development planned 2 kilometres further south on the peninsula, he says.

Church spokesman Johnathan Brodie says the church "extensively searched for a site in Hingaia as it is central for our congregation".

"Many sites were considered but were unsuitable or unavailable."

There are 1000 Exclusive Brethren across Auckland and those from the central city will continue to attend church in Mangere.

Only rarely will the building be filled to capacity, he says.

A planner's report says the building "may be considered to be out of character" on Park Estate Rd but "in the long term . . . the visual impact of the development on the area will be acceptable".

The church would be required to help upgrade the road and put in its own treatment plant and tanked water supply.

Auckland Council will consider the proposal tomorrow and Friday and a decision is expected within the month.

Go to plymouthbrethren christianchurch.org for more information. The church's former website, theexclusivebrethren.com, now redirects here.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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