Coastal subdivision secures life’s work
It takes at least four people working full-time to keep East Auckland’s sprawling Ayrlies gardens and wetlands in check. Gathered outside the Whitford kitchen at smoko time, their outfits range from hardy wet weather gear to a neat cardigan and reading glasses.
The garden is immense and impressive. Over 10 acres it cascades down a hill, giving way to the wetlands with its nine-acre lake, and eventually to Clifton Road beach.
For her tireless dedication to what was once bare farmland, owner Beverly McConnell was awarded a Queen’s Service Medal for services to horticulture and made a Member of the NZ Order Of Merit.
But Ayrlies’ brilliance comes at a cost and son John McConnell compares it to a black hole that swallows time and money. And with Beverly now in her late 80s, he says the family wants to find a way to secure its future.
In August, the Auckland Council granted the family consent to subdivide the farm’s 150 acres. The development will see the land split into 13 coastal countryside living sections.
McConnell says the development is ‘‘essential to ensure the ongoing sustainability of the garden and the wetlands for the benefit of the environment and broader community’’.
‘‘The alternative would have seen the development and sale of sites that included large portions of the wetlands area that we are trying to preserve. This alternative would be self defeating, with the wetlands being lost forever.’’
News of the development’s go ahead has drawn criticism from some who feel it will have more than a minor impact on the peninsular’s ecology and therefore, consent should have been publicly notified.
Of particular concern are three sections within close proximity to a bird nesting site for threatened northern NZ dotterel and variable oystercatchers.
Forest and Bird’s regional manager Nick Beveridge says the Department of Conservation site is also an important habitat for godwits and red knots, who visit in their thousands in the summer months.
McConnell says the family engaged in early discussions with the council around joint development of the sites into a larger wetlands environment and marine coastal reserve, ‘‘extending the significant wetlands created some 20 years ago’’.
‘‘Unfortunately it was not deemed to be of significance to council in terms of their longterm strategic plan for the area.’’
He says the building sites have been situated ‘‘well back’’ to have minimal impact on the landscape and are as far from the reserve as possible.
‘‘It took us a number of years to develop the proposal before it was lodged with council and this reflects the work gone into developing a very sensitive scheme which will contribute positively to this area.’’
A horse bridle path will be extended through the McConnell’s property to improve accessibility and link it directly with the coastal reserve.
McConnell says they hope to start work on the development this summer.
John McConnell says the development is essential to the ongoing sustainability of Ayrlies, created by his mother Beverly.