Storm drainage an issue for subdivision Zone change sought for 160 properties

Plans for a 160-property subdivision south of Blenheim took a step closer to being realised yesterday with the start of the development's resource consent hearing at the Marlborough Convention Centre.

Maxwell Heights would be built by Kapiti Views Trust, which is owned by Marlborough businessman John Marris.

The proposed residential lots would cover 50 hectares, with each between 2000 and 4000 square metres and sited along the hillside from the intersection of Maxwell Pass and Taylor Pass roads, 2.5 kilometres south of town.

Mr Marris is applying to change the Rural 4 status of the land to Maxwell Hills zone, a standalone development similar to the Marlborough Ridge zone.

Auckland-based resource management lawyer John Maassen is chairman of the hearing committee, alongside councillors David Oddie and Jamie Arbuckle.

Mr Marris has been instrumental in the development of the Fairbourne Dr and Morven Ln subdivisions in Fairhall, and based the viability of the Maxwell Heights project on their success.

"There's been good take-up of other similar properties, which are all greenfield sites . . . we believe there is a market for these types of properties in Marlborough."

The land is not useless for farming or horticultural, but the lack of water in the area made it challenging, he said.

"The flats would grow grapes but unfortunately there is a water issue.

"The previous owner [of the land] let his water rights lapse and [adjacent landowners] have picked up that lease."

Landscape architect Christopher Glasson said the visual impact of the development would be minor and would add to the overall diversification and beautification of the area. "With time we will have added to the natural environment and reinforced what is already there."

It was better to have a tightly defined housing area and retain the rest of the area in its natural state, instead of developing the land into 10ha lots spread across a wider area, he said.

Mr Maassen told the applicants he wanted a very clear picture of the proposed engineering designs which would deal with storm water. "The expectation of the level of engineering and its performance requirements to mitigate erosion hazards needs to be articulated."

Geotechnical expert Edwyn Ladley identified erosion hazards including tunnel gulley erosion - where rain water erodes soils beneath the surface, which eventually collapses and forms deep, unsightly scarring.

Tunnel gulley erosion at Maxwell Hills could be mitigated by a surface water cut-off drain and subsurface drain uphill of the subdivision, to intercept the run off and direct it to stabilised gullies, he said. Mr Ladley referred to the Resource Management and Building acts in response to Mr Maassen's concerns over the proposed standards of the work.

The acts are administered by the Marlborough District Council, whose guidelines put the onus on geotechnical practitioners to identify erosion hazards and demonstrate effective ways to mitigate the risk, he said.

Town planning advisor and landscape development consultant Paul Millen, surveyor Terry McGrail, traffic engineer Gary Clark and ecologist Mark Taylor also gave evidence yesterday.

Submissions from the developer's experts are expected to finish today, and will be followed by the 11 submitters against the application.

The hearing is expected to end tomorrow.

The Marlborough Express