Coastal sub­di­vi­sion se­cures life’s work

Eastern Courier - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS - IMOGEN NEALE

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.

IMOGEN NEALE / STUFF

John McCon­nell says the de­vel­op­ment is es­sen­tial to the on­go­ing sus­tain­abil­ity of Ayr­lies, cre­ated by his mother Bev­erly.

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