Buddies win the battle

BY STEPHEN FORBES
Last updated 08:54 03/03/2009

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It's party time for five old mates who have won a three-year battle to build a cafe at Piha.

Four of them got together on Friday for a few beers to celebrate the milestone. Only one, former All Black Marc Ellis, was unable to make it because he is in Argentina with his wife Augustina Mon.

The five have been friends since their Otago University days about 20 years ago and are directors of the company Preserve Piha.

They bought a property at 20 Sea View Rd from Telecom in April 2006 with plans to turn it into a cafe.

But none anticipated the level of public opposition when they applied for resource consent.

Public hearings involving the Waitakere and Auckland regional councils were held and the application was eventually approved.

Development plans came to a halt when opponents, banding together as the Protect Piha Heritage group, lodged an appeal in the Environment Court, saying the cafe would encourage urbanisation.

Now the court has ruled in favour of the cafe which should be open by Christmas.

The directors – Mr Ellis, Chris Fougere, Rich Hatton, Dave Bensley and Andy Higgs – are thrilled.

"The decision was very positive and we pretty much got everything we asked for," Mr Higgs says.

The friends have a special affinity with Piha.

They enjoy surfing and three live there.

"We see this as an investment in Piha," Mr Higgs says.

"The locals will love it and visitors will too."

Protect Piha Heritage spokeswoman Sandra Coney says her group won’t be appealing the Environment Court decision.

She says members have spent a "six-figure sum" in their efforts to block the move so far.

"We won’t be looking to go any further with it," she says.

"We’ve done our best and it’s taken a lot of resources from the community.

"It was necessary to do it instead of just opening the door and saying welcome in – we put forward the other side of the case.

"It’s consumed a lot of our time over the past couple of years."

 

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