Dismay at ruling on spare land

MICHAEL WRIGHT
Last updated 05:00 05/09/2011

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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A proposed development in Kaiapoi that could provide hundreds of houses for quake-displaced residents is in limbo after being granted only partial approval.

Residential rezoning for the 450-section Silverstream Estates proposed for western Kaiapoi was granted only conditional approval on Friday by commissioners appointed by the Waimakariri District Council.

The conditional approval requires a site to the eastern edge of the proposal to be developed before Silverstream Estates can go ahead.

Scheme developer Fred Rahme, of H-Investments, said the decision on the 51-hectare site was "bureaucracy gone crazy".

"It's almost as if the earthquake hasn't happened," he said.

"There's been no thought or consideration to those people who have been displaced, and that's just wrong."

Rahme said the decision was a virtual refusal.

"It virtually means no approval. We have to wait for other things to happen that are beyond our control."

The sections were keenly sought by some of Kaiapoi's 860 red-zoned residents, who swamped H-Investments with inquiries after learning of their fate on August 18, Rahme said.

The land was earmarked for urban expansion several years ago, but a deferment had been placed on residential development there.

H-Investments bought the land in 2006, before the deferment, and had long been working to get it overturned.

Commissioners ruled development of the block of land, of which Silverstream is only part, should start adjacent to residential buildings on its eastern edge and move west.

Silverstream is in the west of the block, and would have to wait for growth to reach it before development could begin. An application to rezone part of the Silverstream site for business use was also rejected by commissioners on Friday.

The approval process had been long and fraught with problems, Rahme said.

The company had bought the land understanding it would be rezoned as residential, but subsequently had the deferment placed on it.

Senior council members had been helpful with their advice, Rahme said, but were sometimes contradicted by other staff.

More than once he felt he had ticked all the procedural boxes for rezoning only to encounter more hurdles.

"What do we need to do? It's like we're screaming into the wilderness."

Council chief executive Jim Palmer said he appreciated the developer's position.

"I understand the point that they're making and the concerns they have ... sometimes the level of information sought to support [a rezoning application] is more than what someone believes necessary and that does cause frustration from time to time."

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The council would keep working with Silverstream, he said.

"We're certainly happy to sit down and talk. Once we understand the depth and breadth of the appeals, we're happy to talk to all parties."

The council supported residential development on the land, he said.

"It was the council that initiated the plan change and decided to become deferred residential ... so yes, of course the council is keen to see residential development occur in those areas."

Rahme said the subdivision could be redesigned to include more small, affordable sections and if work started now, the first properties could be ready early next year.

A further 200 sections could be added if Christchurch International Airport's noise contour rules were relaxed, he said.

Kaiapoi real estate agent Tom Baylis said a Silverstream-like development would be "huge" for the town.

"We need it and the sooner the better. We've got a lot of people looking and there's nowhere for them to go, and they don't want to shift out of Kaiapoi."

Finding sections red-zoned residents could afford would be the biggest hurdle, he said.

"There's a lot of people in limbo and they don't know which way to jump. If there was something possible it would be great if they could make an announcement like that."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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