A distinctive landscape feature will be lost from Palmerston North when the Anzac Cliffs are turned into a hill, a dissenting resource management commissioner says.
Commissioners have granted consent for work to stabilise the cliffs and divert the Manawatu River from its eroding course at their base.
However, Sue Smith broke ranks from the majority decision about the effects on the landscape and conditions designed to make up for their loss.
She said the effects would be ‘‘severe, unavoidable and irremediable’’.
Recording her dissent in an appendix to the decision, Ms Smith said the remodelling of the cliffs, with their striking vertical lines, would destroy a unique feature.
Even though there were no submitters left at the hearing opposing the change to the landscape, she said the commissioners ‘‘owe it to the communities’’ to explore whether attempts to repair the view would go far enough.
Submitter Carol Howard had withdrawn from the process, convinced by assurances the new slopes would be quickly covered in new native trees and shrubs.
‘‘I am concerned that the artist’s impression may have given Mrs Howard an inaccurate understanding of the finished effect of the work, and the time frame for achieving this effect.’’
It could take years to achieve, she said.
Ms Smith was concerned people did not understand that the height of the cliffs would be lowered as the slope was smoothed and earth was provided to ‘‘fill the hole’’ between a new rock wall controlling the river’s curve and the base of the new hill.
‘‘The uninteresting design of the earthworks is regrettable,’’ she said.
The commissioners’ overall decision could allow the project to go ahead this summer, pending any appeals, which have to be lodged by September 12.
The project is a joint one between Horizons Regional Council and clifftop landowners PMB Landco.
It involves Horizons building a new rock wall to smooth the Manawatu River’s course, stopping further erosion of the cliffs, removing a hazard to the public, protecting the city-side stopbanks, and reducing the sediment falling into the river.
An estimated 20,000 cubic metres of sediment is entering the river each year when chunks of the cliff crash down.
PMB Landco’s earthworks would be an integral part of the work to secure land at the top for a 36-section housing development.
The commissioners were satisfied the application and the environmental codes of practice for river works would minimise river disturbance during the work.
Horizons project engineer Derek McKee said the council was pleased with the result as it enabled Horizons to address flood protection and water quality concerns as well as issues of the wider community.
“We are waiting for the completion of the appeals period and then under consultation with the project partners, we will get started.”
As part of the City Reach project, opportunities would be taken to include recreational access to the river.
Horizons will work with Rangitaane iwi to ensure planting of the re-contoured cliff is compatible with vegetation on the adjoining Te Motu O Poutoa pa site, and opportunities will be sought to extend public walkways in the area.
The Palmerston North City’s role in the project will include planning for public access to the river and connecting a network of walkways.
It has already made a change to the District Plan removing a building line restriction from the residentially zoned land at the top of the cliffs, allowing development to go ahead.