Businessman calls zone process 'unfair'
A Blenheim businessman, whose company is attempting to re-zone rural land in Omaka for residential use, says he has been treated unfairly by Marlborough District Council.
Mark Davis, a shareholder of Colonial Vineyards, which is trying to re-zone 21.4 hectares of vineyard at Omaka from rural 3 to urban residential, was cross-examined by the council's lawyers on the first day of an Environment Court hearing yesterday.
Judge Jon Jackson and commissioners John Mills and Alexander Sutherland are considering the case, which is being held at the Quality Hotel in Blenheim, and is set to last for one week.
Colonial vineyards is appealing the decision by a council-appointed planning commissioner last year not to allow the vineyard to be developed into a housing subdivision.
According to the commissioner's decision, the proposal failed because not enough information was available on noise levels, and the potential development of aviation and associated industry in the area had not been taken into account.
Colonial Vineyards lawyer Nick Davidson QC began the hearing yesterday with a brief summary of his client's case.
The council's Southern Marlborough Urban Growth Strategy report in 2010 had identified an urgent need for residential land, and Colonial Vineyards was deemed to be suitable because of its proximity to Blenheim and not being prone to liquefaction or flooding.
However, a review of the strategy earlier this year prompted by widespread damage from liquefaction in the Canterbury earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 had effectively "parked" that plan, without any public consultation, including with Colonial Vineyards, Mr Davidson said.
"In a stroke of inconsideration it's gone, without consultation, replaced with some sort of employment zoning."
The revised urban growth plan had shifted future residential development from the south and east of Blenheim to the Old Renwick Rd area, and earmarked Colonial Vineyards for industrial use to protect the growth of the aviation industry in the Omaka area.
In his evidence Mr Davis, whose family owns the Harcourts Marlborough franchise, said there was no sign of any need for industrial land in the Omaka area.
When he was cross-examined by council lawyer Stephen Quinn, he said his company had been locked out of any conversation with the council regarding zone changes in Marlborough in the latest urban growth review earlier this year, and had received no support from the council.
However, the council had adopted plan changes on behalf of other landowners, he said.
"In my view there has been an unfair process in the lead up to today's hearing," he said.
"Council are not treating us the same as they are treating other landowners. If I was a sceptic I would say there has been some political interference going on in the background."
Mr Davis was closely questioned by Mr Quinn and aviation cluster lawyer Quentin Davies about why his company had opted to pursue the zone change, despite knowing the council was reviewing the urban growth plan.
Mr Davis said he did not want to further delay their development plans.
Several other witnesses were also cross-examined yesterday.
The hearing was to resume at 2pm today, after a visit to the Colonial land this morning.
- The Marlborough Express