Ratepayers fail to win district-plan delay

Angry ratepayers have pushed Hamilton City Council to the brink of delaying the city's showpiece district plan over a huge container port.

A group of 30 Ruakura residents have been critical of the standard of consultation by city council planning staff over Tainui Group Holdings' plans for a $3 billion inland port adjacent to their homes.

They yesterday urged council to consider their plight before publicly notifying the district plan, and its changes allowing the proposed freight hub - and pushed the council to within just two votes of agreeing.

District plans are the primary way to control land use and development, and the proposed plan will now be subject to submissions and hearings.

But councillors are warning council has left itself wide open to legal challenges for failing to properly consult with the residents - a failing which last cost city ratepayers when TGH successfully challenged the city council's ill-fated variation 12 plan change on the same grounds.

The current district plan was completed in 2001 but became operative only this year after lengthy appeals and objections, and councillors pushing to delay until March were wary this one may be treading the same path.

Council general manager city environments Brian Croad said three years' intensive work had gone into the plan, which he said was a significant departure from the current planning rules and would reshape the city.

Resident Derrick Marsters said plan concessions changing their properties' zoning from "logistics" to "large residential" didn't address their concerns.

The group had commissioned real estate appraisals and "there's no doubt there's a significant loss of value on our properties whereas Tainui will have massive equity growth overnight, at the stroke of a pen. Leave us out, or deal with us, give us some sort of concession," he said.

"No resident I've spoken to is opposed to the plan. We want the best for Hamilton, we want the best for the community."

A Tainui delegation led by TGH chief executive Mike Pohio emphasised the economic impact of the port and congratulated council for its work.

"What the project does is offer hope through jobs. Some 6000-12,000 jobs, that's the essence of our proposal.

"TGH is fully committed, with all its resources, to the development of Ruakura," he said.

The proposed plan will now be notified on December 10.

The proposed zoning for the properties changes the rules for subdivision and includes a 40m building setback for the port, while the residents want current rules retained and a significant buffer belt or bunding.

Council legal adviser Lachlan Muldowney said a suite of components in the district plan mitigated the ports' impact on residents and to require mitigation beyond known impacts, such as the planted buffer, rendered "valuable industrial land effectively sterilised".

Waikato Times