Flood risks sink town’s growth plan
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.