Council coughs up for curfew fight

FEUD CONTINUES: Palmerston North venue Caccia Birch is in a fight with neighbours who want the 11pm closing time to remain.
FEUD CONTINUES: Palmerston North venue Caccia Birch is in a fight with neighbours who want the 11pm closing time to remain.

The Caccia Birch Trust Board will fight Palmerston North City Council plans to keep its curfew in place, but the council is going to give it $15,000 to do so.

The board runs the restored historic house as a function centre, and hoped a review of its zone in the District Plan would provide an opportunity to change the rules so it could stay open until midnight 50 times a year.

Its neighbours want the 11pm closing time to remain.

Solicitor and adjoining property owner Mark Wadham reinforced that stand at the planning and policy committee's meeting yesterday.

He said the function centre and neighbours in the surrounding high quality residential area had co-existed for 20 years because of the noise controls and curfew.

Any extension to the hours would completely change that, he said.

"There would be yelling and screaming and doors slamming - a completely different situation."

He said if the council proposed changes to the closing time, the matter would "certainly be taken further".

City planner David Murphy said there was no evidence or expert advice to support later closing, either for 50 nights a year, or for the 24 suggested by Cr Ross Linklater as a middle ground.

Consultation with the neighbours had exhausted the possibilities for compromise, Murphy said.

Trust board chairwoman Bobbie O'Fee had earlier told councillors the curfew made it difficult to attract some functions, such as weddings, and it was also stressful for staff to impose on guests.

But given that council officers would not support a change, she asked that the council, as the homestead's owner, help by paying the bill for it to get its own independent advice.

It estimated $15,000 would allow it to engage a planner and acoustic engineer to provide evidence it would need to make a submission opposing the proposed plan change.

Four councillors wanted to support the trust board's request for later hours despite staff advice.

Cr Lew Findlay said it seemed the board and council were being bullied by neighbours threatening to take them to court.

But Cr Tangi Utikere said it was appropriate for the council to heed staff advice, to notify the proposed plan change and call for submissions, allowing independent commissioners to hear from all parties and make the decision.

Councillors agreed to grant the board $15,000 to prepare its submission. The change will be notified in mid-September.

Manawatu Standard