Parties put their viewpoints to hearing
Extreme fire risk, erosion and loss of productive land were among the concerns raised by Taylor Pass residents at the Maxwell Heights subdivision resource consent hearing yesterday.
Maxwell Heights is a proposed 160-site subdivision set on 50 hectares of land near the Maxwell Pass and Taylor Pass roads intersection, to be developed by Marlborough businessman John Marris through his company Kapiti Views Trust.
The hearing is being chaired by Auckland-based resource management lawyer John Maassen, along with councillors Jamie Arbuckle and David Oddie.
Fourth-generation farmer William Grigg, who runs Meadowbank sheep station and vineyard on Taylor Pass Rd with his brother Duncan Grigg, rebutted Mr Marris' claims the land was unsuitable for farming or horticulture.
They had 150 per cent lambing rate, which was in the top band of New Zealand farms, he said.
"We consider the land to be highly productive and valuable . . . and worthy of protection for farming."
Creating an urban subdivision in the rural area would lead to complaints from residents about noise from frost fighting, crop dusting, weed control, bird scaring and farm machinery, spray drift and the smell of animals, he said.
Mr Maassen had asked Kapiti View planner Janice Carter if there was an existing policy to guide residential housing developments in Marlborough.
She said she had not seen anything that made her think the plan change for the subdivision could not be done.
But Julian Ironside, the lawyer representing Taylor Pass residents and businesses, said the Wairau-Awatere Resource Management Plan provided a framework for including urban housing in rural areas.
It allowed lower-density urban housing at the periphery of Blenheim to retain rural character and land for rural activities, he said.
"Consideration of areas for future residential sites needs to be provided and planned for in a co-ordinated manner rather than piecemeal development," he said, reading from the plan.
Taylor Pass residents' planning expert Jacqueline McNae said there was a significant uncertainty about the proposed plan change.
The scale of Maxwell Heights was inconsistent with any existing urban development in a rural area in Marlborough, she said.
"[Putting] 160 allotments into a rural area can not possibly retain it's rural character." Registered surveyor Vicki Nalder-Clyde spoke on behalf of the resident group and said Maxwell Heights would be its own township, as large as Okiwi Bay in the Marlborough Sounds.
However, they applauded the proposed plantings and beautification on the subdivision. The development of the reserve upstream of the Taylor Pass Dam would be a tremendous asset to the area, she said.
Nelson Forests planner Heather Arnold said it was critical to separate vegetation from buildings to avoid fire risk.
She also suggested a total fire ban on residents because of the extremely fire risk in the area.
Marlborough District Council experts were scheduled to present their report to the hearing this morning,, with the hearing panel to visit the site in the afternoon.