Flood risks sink town’s growth plan

The Tribune (NZ) - - NEWS - JA­NINE RANKIN

Un­cer­tainty re­mains about where the Palmer­ston North vil­lage of Ash­hurst will grow.

A 13.4 hectare area to the west of Winch­ester St was pro­posed for re­zon­ing as part of the re­view of the res­i­den­tial sec­tion of the Dis­trict Plan in 2016.

But a re­source man­age­ment panel, in­clud­ing two in­de­pen­dent and three coun­cil­lor com­mis­sion­ers, has turned down the pro­posal.

Their de­ci­sion was based on a lack of in­for­ma­tion about the po­ten­tial for flood­ing in the area.

The city coun­cil had se­lected the Winch­ester St block from a group of op­tions as its pre­ferred lo­ca­tion for fu­ture res­i­den­tial growth in the vil­lage in 2013.

It could pro­duce about 120 new sec­tions, enough to cater for de­mand for 20 years.

The com­mis­sion­ers agreed the area could be an at­trac­tive ad­di­tion to the city’s land bank, and would con­nect well to ex­ist­ing vil­lage ser­vices.

But they were not sat­is­fied with the qual­ity of in­for­ma­tion avail­able about flood risks, par­tic­u­larly in a one in 200 year flood, ‘‘for which we have nei­ther data nor pre­dic­tions’’.

They were also con­cerned that the cost of pro­tect­ing the area against flood risks, such as im­pos­ing min­i­mum floor lev­els to raise build­ings above any likely wa­ter depth, could make devel­op­ment not vi­able.

The com­mis­sion­ers said the area could pos­si­bly be re­zoned in fu­ture, when more in­for­ma­tion was avail­able, just not now.

Sub­mit­ter Harvey Jones said the de­ci­sion was sen­si­ble, as he was in no doubt the area was flood prone.

But landown­ers Philip and Be­van Cur­rie, whose fam­ily had owned prop­erty there for al­most 100 years, be­lieved since the coun­cil had im­proved stormwa­ter sys­tems af­ter floods in 2004, the area was no longer a po­ten­tial flood plain.

In an­other part of the de­ci­sion, com­mis­sion­ers opted for a min­i­mum lot size in Ash­hurst, Long­burn and Bun­nythorpe of 500 square me­tres.

That was larger than the 350sqm al­lowed in the main Palmer­ston North ur­ban area.

City coun­cil­lor Dun­can McCann, who used to rep­re­sent the Ash­hurst-Fitzher­bert ward be­fore it was abol­ished, said the de­ci­sion on sec­tion sizes would please many peo­ple who wanted to pre­serve the vil­lage’s spe­cial char­ac­ter.

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