Challenge to council over 'eyesore' site

LIZ MCDONALD
Last updated 10:44 18/02/2013
Former saleyards in Deans Ave
DON SCOTT/Fairfax NZ

IN LIMBO: The former saleyards in Deans Ave, opposite Hagley Park.

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The owners of a site long called one of Christchurch's biggest eyesores still wish to develop it, despite a campaign for council action over the land.

The 6-hectare former saleyards site, in Deans Ave, opposite Hagley Park, has attracted rubbish, graffiti and a recent fire hazard notice.

It has sat derelict since the late 1990s when owners Neowell Investments began a six-year planning fight with the Christchurch City Council to develop the residentially-zoned site for business use.

Christchurch man David Buckingham has now launched a campaign for the council to step in and buy the site, and will plaster it with posters that read ''Mayor Parker, tear down this wall''.

''I want Christchurch people to come down and help me,'' he said.

He believes only political pressure will get action on the land after years of neglect.

''Technically we will be committing vandalism, but this is our city, I drive past this on a regular basis. I respect property rights, but there's a point where owners have to respect the rights of others as well - the right to land is not unfettered.''

Neowell Investments is owned by members of the Chiu family, resident in the suburb of Ilam, and in Taiwan.

A family spokesman, who declined to be named, said they still planned to put a mixed hotel and retail complex on the land ''but we are not allowed to build commercial on it.''

At the end of the six-year planning wrangle, the council agreed to allow a hotel on the site, despite the residential zoning, but no further commercial development.

In 2005, Neowell went ahead with plans to build a hotel but shelved them when the global financial downturn hit.

The planning battle had been very costly, the spokesman said, and he estimated the development would cost another ''couple of hundred million'' dollars but create hundreds of jobs.

''It's a big property. It's crucial to make sure whatever we do will be good for the city. We are still thinking about what we will do and waiting to see how the city is going to go. Christchurch is still a mess.''

The spokesman blamed the council for the state of the land, saying it ignored the advice of its own planners when denying the family's bid for rezoning.

''How do you have confidence in a council like that? We pay $70,000 in rates every year and we don't get anything, not even a rubbish bag.''

He said they had ''tried very hard'' to keep the land tidy, but believed the city council or community service workers should help.

The family would consider selling ''if the price was right, but I don't think many people in Christchurch could afford it.''

Neowell Investments paid $5.46 million in 1997 for the land, which now has a rating valuation of $11.7m.

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