Ladies Mile re-zoning – inevitable or not?

What follows is a collection of thoughts based on my understanding and what matters to me at this point in time. Don’t take it as gospel, don’t place too much weight on it (I’m no expert). I’ve written this because you have a right to know what I’m thinking. If I need to make corrections let me know; if you’d like to challenge my thinking please do!

Firstly, a little background…

QLDC is currently spending a significant amount of money on a Masterplan and District Plan Change for Ladies Mile. This work considers the potential rezoning of the land on the northern side of Ladies Mile, the use of council land at 516 Ladies Mile, and the future of the 75m building restriction area on the southern side of the road.

The proposal is to rezone the land to a mix of medium – high density residential, education, open space and commercial to create a more connected community with better facilities closer to home and the density to drive the use of public transport. It’s a worthy goal but it needs to be achievable and the ‘upsides’ must be weighed against the inevitable downsides. To that end QLDC has gone out for feedback. There are currently 3 Concept Plans available for the community to consider and comment on. That feedback will help to develop a final preferred option that will then go out for comment in February/March next year.

This survey will close at midnight tonight (Monday 16 November 2020): https://letstalk.qldc.govt.nz/ladies-mile-masterplan

And this brochure is helpful in understanding what’s proposed and why: https://www.qldc.govt.nz/media/3huh4pob/qldc_ladies-mile_masterplan_a3-folded-to-a4-brochure_web.pdf

Is development and rezoning of Ladies Mile inevitable?

There has been a lot of talk within and outside of council about the rezoning and development of Ladies Mile being inevitable – that if we don’t progress a plan change the land owners will. It’s a key assumption underpinning the proposed plan change but I’m not so sure it’s entirely valid. It’s always troubled me and has always been one of the reasons I’ve voted against the proposed plan change so far. Yes, there is the Queenstown Country Club development setting a precedent of sorts, and a National Policy Statement for Urban Development (NPS-UD) that requires us to provide sufficient residential development. But in terms of potential road blocks to a private plan change we have:

  1. A two-lane bridge across the Shotover and NZTA is an affected party
  2. An Outstanding Natural Feature in Slope Hill
  3. Class 2 (LUC) soils (the LUC system classes soil as 1-8, 1 being the most productive)
  4. A Proposed National Policy Statement for Highly Productive Land (NPS-HPL) on its way. The intent of the proposed NPS-HPL is to maintain the availability of HPL for ‘primary production’ for future generations and to ensure productive land is not lost to inappropriate subdivision and development.
  5. No private party can apply to change the Proposed District Plan – so by the time they can the NPS-HPL may well be in place.
  6. A Climate Action Plan that seeks to make our communities more resilient and support local food initiatives. Here are two of the planned actions: firstly, to review funding provisions and improve funding mechanisms for community-led climate action i.e. food and water resilience initiatives; and secondly, to support and guide the development of local food initiatives.

I’m not saying the proposed plan change shouldn’t go ahead – I just don’t think the assumptions underpinning it are water-tight. So when the master plan and associated plan change come to councillors for approval later this year I won’t be assuming rezoning is inevitable; I’ll be considering whether it is the right thing to do for the community and future generations given existing rights, obligations, policies, constraints and opportunities. And I’ll be keeping in mind that the land could be retained for food production should we choose to do that.

At decision time I’ll be thinking about a number of things including: QLDC’s obligations under the National Policy Statement for Urban Development (NPS-UD); the existing rights of developers to apply for private plan changes and our ability to defend the existing zoning; the willingness of landowners to develop their land; the current and future capacity of our water and energy infrastructure; the NZTA’s position and how we’d resolve traffic congestion; our Climate Action Plan outcomes, actions and targets; and so on… It’s complex and I’ve not yet made a ‘landing’ because, like everyone, else I still need more information.

Whether I agree it or not will probably depend to a large extent on any progress resolving the very predictable traffic issues, the treatment of storm water and the impact of that on Lake Hayes, and whether the proposed plan change has ‘teeth’ – because we don’t want to be spending further millions challenging applications for resource consent that undermine the reason for doing this work.

My decision will also depend on council stepping up to assess and protect sufficient productive land to meet the objectives of the Climate Action Plan to ensure this community is resilient – because we need to provide housing but people need food too. As a district that will continue to have good rainfall and access to water sources, we need to think carefully about the best use of land and more specifically, soil.

I also need to say that I love the fact that we’re proposing high density and increased height, and that we are trying to reduce car journeys and create a need for outstanding public transport. Reducing our impacts on the climate and our waterways is critical and making it easier to change our lifestyles (a bit or a lot) is key to achieving that.

I can’t bear the thought of using half of the land at 516 Ladies Mile for a park and ride.

Finally, while I can’t say what my decision will be, what I can say is that from what I’ve seen I have confidence in the consortium developing the plan change. They are thinking creatively, they’re listening, and sustainability appears to be ‘front of mind’ and that’s what’s needed. So I’m sure we’ll have an excellent, even ground-breaking, proposal to consider – the big questions for me will be ‘is it in the right place?’ and ‘do the benefits outweigh the costs?’.

Feel free to email your thoughts niki.gladding@qldc.govt.nz

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