‘Large parcel’ of Gulf Harbour Country Club land already zoned for development: Councillor

A “large parcel” of the Gulf Harbour Country Club’s golf course is already zoned for development although a covenant prohibits change on the rest, a local leader says.

John Watson, an Albany ward councillor, said some hectares of the Whangaparāoa land near the clubrooms could be developed as of right, although a covenant was put in place on the rest of the land nearly two decades ago and meant it couldn’t be used for anything except golfing.

The land which can be developed is, however, not part of a sale which occurred last month, he stressed.

That development site near the Pinecrest Dr/Gulf Harbour Dr is now used for golfing purposes. But it doesn’t have to stay that way due to Auckland Unitary Plan provisions which allow construction on the greenfields site.

“On the golf course site adjacent to the intersection of Gulf Harbour Dr and Pinecrest Dr, there already exists a large parcel of land that is zoned for development. Back in 2007, Mark Bryers of Blue Chip fame had plans for a five-star resort on this site with 200 rooms and 45 villas where development is permitted. That has the ability to be developed as of right.”

Watson ringed that part of the Gulf Harbour Country Club, showing the Auckland Unitary Plan map and general area which could be built on.

He stressed it was not part of the wider parcel of golf course land sold to Olliver.

But elsewhere on the golf course land, the covenant applied, he said.

“The covenant over this golf course was established back in 2006 that prohibits this land from being used for any other purpose than for a golf course.

“That is widely known in the community and there would be serious concern over any attempt to revoke that covenant which has had the effect of dictating development in the area which has been of a significantly higher intensity than would have otherwise been permitted under previous council planning regimes,” Watson said.

Watson was commenting after a company owned by developer Greg Olliver took over the land-owning company last month.

“The development of this entire area has been predicated on this land remaining as a golf course,” Watson said of the many houses which have been built in the last two decades around the championship 18-hole course.

Watson said there were also significant infrastructure constraints on Whangaparāoa Peninsula generally but at the eastern end in particular (Gulf Harbour and Army Bay) particularly in terms of transport.

Watson was commenting on community concern, raised by Olliver’s company purchasing the 89ha of golf course land.

One person said he had seen plans for a retirement village around three holes surrounding a lake on the site and knew of the planning business which had produced those plans.

Olliver has not commented, nor said what – if anything – he has planned for the golf course.

Watson said although that portion of land could be developed, he was concerned about infrastructure and its ability to cope.

Traffic in the area was of major concern already. The planned Penlink motorway connection between Whangapāroa and State Highway One would do nothing to improve that traffic flow from the eastern end of the peninsula through to the planned Penlink turnoff in Stanmore Bay, he said.

“In the Rodney District Council days, the cost of any such land purchase to allow for road widening to the eastern end of the peninsula was prohibitive – far in excess of the cost to build the Penlink connection itself.

“Any travel time gained from the Penlink connection would be more than lost in the travel time from Gulf Harbour which already backs up to Little Manly at the commuter rush. It is one lane in and one lane out for cars and buses on this lengthy part of the peninsula with a significant pinch point on the Tindalls Hill.

“There would be widespread community opposition to any attempt to develop the golf course itself which would be entirely inappropriate in planning terms.

“The actual sale is a private matter between seller and purchaser of course and does not involve the council but we are certainly very keen at this stage to talk to the purchaser about their potential plans given the level of concern that is being expressed in the wider community.”

Property records show that in late 2012 Long River Investments Corporation bought 180 Gulf Harbour Dr, which is where the Gulf Harbour Country Club is situated.

The purchase price back then was $12.8m.

Long River was until last month owned by Yi Li of Mt Eden but Olliver took control on July 23 through The Pheonix Trust of which he is the sole director and shareholder.

Auckland Council records show the 89ha site at 180 Gulf Harbour Dr was valued at $18.3m.

Neighbours, a real estate specialist and school staff last week expressed concern about any possible development plans for the site and sought new information about development potential.

Chris Darby, Auckland Council’s planning committee chairman and one of two North Shore councillors, said last week it was possible for a landowner to seek consent to develop the golf course land under a plan change process.

That means the owner goes to the council to seek a new use for the property, gaining consent for purposes which the real estate is not used for currently.

“When I read of the buyer move on Gulf Harbour Country Club I immediately thought they might have eyes on the development potential of the course land. The Auckland Unitary Plan though identifies the land as open space – sport and active recreation zone, not housing,” Darby emphasised.

The current zoning of the Gulf Harbour Country Club land, in full or part, would likely require the progressing of a private plan change to enable housing development, Darby said.

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