Environmental society criticizes QLDC’s planning process

The Upper Clutha Environmental Society (UCES) has lashed out at the Queenstown Lakes District Council’s long-running review of landscape schedules and development capacity in its district plan.

The council recently selected 29 priority landscapes in Wakatipu and Upper Clutha to be included in a landscape values ​​study ahead of a hearing to amend the “Chapter 21 rural area” of the proposed district plan.

However, the company argues in a strongly worded submission to the change of plan that the process should be notified again because the council has not studied the development capacity of all landscapes with a rural character.

The council had received around 200 submissions when the submission period closed last week.

UCES chairman Julian Haworth said yesterday the council process had harmed the community because rural landscapes would be less protected from inappropriate development.

“If they are not completed, we don’t know what development they can absorb. Without these studies, it becomes an ad hoc development. A candidate can say, ‘there are no landscape values, so it’s integrity,'” Mr. Haworth said.

The UCES submission alleges, among other things, that the council acted in ‘bad faith’ as ​​it agreed in May 2020 to do all the landscape assessments to avoid a High Court appeal against the district plan decisions of the Court of the Environment. This convinced UCES to withdraw the appeal.

When the council notified the 29 priority areas in June, the council’s chief planning and development officer, Tony Avery, said there were not enough landscape architects available to carry out all the framework assessments. identified by values ​​(VIF) and that the environmental tribunal had set a deadline to identify the priority. landscapes, “the rest of the work to be completed as soon as possible”.

Mr Avery confirmed this week “it remains very difficult” to find landscape architects.

Each submission would be reviewed by the Independent Hearing Panel, he said.

When asked if the change should be notified again, he replied, “It has already been notified publicly and people are fully engaged in the process, as the number of submissions illustrates.”

Mr Haworth said yesterday there were only four low-profile VIF landscapes to study, which he believed the council could and should have done in two weeks for around $10,000.

Mr. Avery did not share Mr. Haworth’s opinion.

“No; the valuation must be properly undertaken and carefully considered. The council have begun to arrange this. This is dependent on the availability of qualified landscape architects and therefore we are unable to confirm timelines and a budget specific at this stage.

The community could trust the council to complete the other studies, he said.

“This has already been forwarded to UCES and previously reported in the ODT.”

Landscape architect Di Lucas assessed Upper Clutha’s priority landscape values ​​on behalf of the company.

But Ms Lucas said she had only made a “very preliminary consideration of the capacity” of the VIF landscape assessments which the council had not yet considered because she understood the council had committed to do it.

Louisa R. Loomis