A new Hamilton city zoning plan which steps on the toes of some of the city's best known companies has been branded as "bonkers" by owner of Gallagher Group, Sir William Gallagher.
Hamilton City Council's proposed district plan restricts companies' ability to expand operations on their sites in the city's industrial zone. The plan came into effect on July 9 this year. There is still an appeal process where some changes can be made.
Businesses are worried that sites such as Gallagher Group's on Kahikatea Drive don't fit in with the new plan's rules.
"I think it's bonkers, and ridiculous," Sir William told the Waikato Times.
"You run integrated industries these days and that means we have office, research and manufacture on the same site."
The plan allows operations in industrial zones to have ancillary offices, but the offices can only be 25 per cent of the floor space, or 250 square metres, whichever is smaller.
Gallagher Group has considerably more office space than this, as do many other companies in industrial zones.
Existing businesses that are operating legally have existing use rights to continue using their sites.
The problem arises if the company wants to do development, which would result in a potentially costly consenting process.
"This thing could come and bite us. And we've certainly got room for expansion down here," said Sir William. He said his brother John Gallagher has offered to take council planners on a tour of the company, "to get a sense of the real world".
"We'd be most willing to help the planners. . . We'd like to show them what an international business looks like these days and how it is reasonably integrated . . . Subdividing is totally artificial and highly inefficient," he said.
Colin Jones, of Commercial and Industrial Consultants said the rule could affect a lot of Hamilton's largest companies.
"These include, but are not limited to, Gallagher, Prolife Foods, WEL Energy, Ecolab, NDA, Admark, Peter Baker Transport, Forlong & Maisey, Alto Plastics, Fletcher Wood Panels to name but a few. I doubt that [Hamilton City Council] realise what they have done."
He said the most affected businesses were those with total floor area larger than 1000sqm and large office space.
He said if any of these businesses were to try to start up in the same place today - instead of under old district plans - they wouldn't be allowed.
"Unfortunately, the city will never know the number of businesses that just say ‘Nope, sorry, I'm moving on'."
Mayor Julie Hardaker said the logic behind the rules is to keep businesses in their designated areas.
"Industrial land is for industrial use. Residential land is for residential use, and we have business centres across the city."
Hardaker said from a policy perspective, it's a good position to take in the district plan.
"I do not accept that it will be a barrier at all to investment," she said.
"As with anything, we always work with developers and investors."
WEL Energy Networks media spokesman Brendon Moloney said: "If we were doing what we did before, under the new rules, that would obviously be a challenge.
"And we are aware that if we want to make any changes to our building through growth and expansion that we would have to go through a difficult consenting process."
Hamilton City Council's city planning manager Luke O'Dwyer said extensive independent consultation went into developing the district plan.
He said the old district plan was "very permissive", so a lot of standalone offices had appeared in industrial zones, to the detriment of the central business district.
O'Dwyer said established businesses operating legally have existing use rights.
"They're not all of a sudden in breach of their consents," he said. But they may have to apply for resource consents for future developments.
‘He said the plan is "not about restricting business", and council staff are available to work with landowners and business operators.
- Waikato Times