Luxury wedding venue operating for five years with no resource consent
A "five-star" Auckland wedding venue and holiday home has been operating without consent for about five years, with neighbours complaining of guests fighting in the street and excessive noise.
Flaxmere House in Bethells Beach had been run as a function centre since about December 2012 without resource consent, according to Auckland Council reports.
The council said Flaxmere House's owners Vanessa Kerridge and Dallas Carnie claimed they didn't know they needed consent until mid 2013, when council officers responded to complaints and issued an abatement notice.
The Flaxmere House website said it was a five-star venue and holiday home on 10 acres. It had eight bedrooms, three separate bathrooms, two lounges and a spa pool.
A wedding package for 80 guests could cost about $13,000.
Five extra nights accommodation was another $5000.
Waiters and servants were available to make your stay "stress free", it said.
Flaxmere House currently operated as visitor accommodation for up to 20 people, and an event venue for up to 80 people.
Kerridge applied for resource consent on June 23, 2014, but a hearing had yet to be held.
The consent application said the couple wanted to continue operating the business as it had been. Kerridge also wanted consent for wastewater, discharge, earthworks and subdivision consent for one new lot.
Kerridge's application said the business had an event management plan, currently in place, to limit noise disturbance and traffic concerns.
This included closing windows and doors from 6pm, ceasing amplified music by 11pm, non-overnight guests to leave by 11.30pm, and no parking on Bethells Rd.
Kerridge said in her statement of evidence she understood the activity was allowed under the operative Rodney plan. She said other large farms and rural locations were hosting similar events.
She said she was aware of the "precious environment" that her property was in, and had taken every step to look after it, and was a responsible landowner.
"I also hope I am not being singled out and that others who are operating these commercial activities from the their homes and farms are also being regulated."
But those opposing the application said they had experienced activities that didn't comply.
One submitter said they had witnessed more than 80 guests at the venue twice in less than four months.
"We have experienced serious disturbance from the address because of noise well outside the 11.30pm time limit, from fighting in the road at night-time, and from massive on-road parking which has necessitated passing cars having to straddle the double yellow lines in an area with very limited visibility," the submission said.
Of eight nearby properties notified of the application, four responded – all in opposition.
Reasons for opposing included traffic and noise disruption, non-compliant buildings, rubbish/litter and concerns for the surrounding environment.
Another submitter said they often had to collect bottles, discarded food scraps and cigarette butts that had been thrown over the fence onto their property.
Bridget Venning, a reporting officer for Auckland Council, recommended consent be refused.
The activity would be at an inappropriate level, the council's northern manager of resource consenting Ian Dobson said.
One neighbour was also concerned about how "large numbers" of people at the venue would affect the nesting, feeding and breeding of native wildlife.
The property was about 60 metres from the Te Henga wetland.
A report by Auckland Council's senior ecologist Jane Andrews said the Australasian bittern – a rare specie – would be most likely affected by activity at Flaxmere House.
The Te Henga wetland was an "important habitat" for the birds, a report by Architecture, Engineering, Consulting, Operating and Maintenance (AECOM) senior acoustic engineer Nick Henrys said.
Andrews said she could support the application if noise levels were kept below 40 decibels between September and November, as noise could affect bittern mating calls.
Nevil Hegley, who has more than 40 years of experience in acoustic engineering, did not believe noise levels from the property would affect the bittern.
He said the only likely noise from the property would be amplified music.
Levels at the closest part of the wetland would be at 33db - below the level of a bittern booming and below the expected threshold of hearing of the bittern, he said.
"Thus, there will not be any adverse noise affected for the bittern."
Senior ecologist Astrid van Meeuwen-Dijkgraaf agreed with Hegley.
She said she disagreed with Auckland Council's ecological evidence and planner's assessment that the magnitude of adverse affects would result in "significant adverse effects on the local population of these species". She said she further disagreed that effects could not be mitigated.
A hearing for the application was set down for the week of September 11.
Dobson said Flaxmere House had been allowed to continue operating as normal because an application had been put forward for consideration.
A lodgement deposit for a limited notified resource consent, like the one being applied for, costs $10,000.
If resource consent was denied, Flaxmere House would need to cease operation.
Kerridge declined to comment before the hearing had taken place.
* This article has been updated to include new information from the consent application related to noise and potential impact on the bird species.