Sale could be ‘dead in the water’
MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD AND STUFF
A controversial proposal to develop land on the shore of Lake Pukaki could be ‘‘dead in the water’’, according to one of its opponents.
Land Information New Zealand (Linz), which manages Crown land, has turned down the proposed sale, which would have allowed the creation of a $5.6 million tourism venture and boutique guest lodge.
The change has been attributed in part to the change in government in late 2017.
The planned lodge was to be located within 40 metres of Lake Pukaki. The applicants had arguedthat it would not spoil the natural landscape and its views.
The Linz decision was outlined in a letter to the lawyers for Guide Hill Station.
Blue Lake Investment Ltd, to which the Overseas Investment Office had granted approval in 2016 to buy the 3551-hectare station for $16.5 million, had hoped to build the 805 square metre lodge, including a 25m indoor swimming pool and a separate two-winged gatehouse building, on the eastern shore of the lake.
A total of 28ha of land on Guide Hill Station was still owned by the Crown and has not yet been released for sale.
An agreement between Guide Hill and Blue Lake would have seen the land sold to Blue Lake, after the Crown had sold it back to Guide Hill, allowing the creation of the lodge.
The letter, from John Hook, group manager of Crown property for Linz, said ‘‘due to a recent change in Government and ongoing review of land use in the Mackenzie Basin, Linz had to ensure that the Department of Conservation’s requirements are still current and we have recently completed our consultation with relevant stakeholders’’.
‘‘DOC has confirmed their requirements and interest in pursuing formal protection of the land due to significant conservation values. Therefore, a decision has been made to retain the land in Crown ownership.
‘‘I regret to advise that it is no longer available...’’
The lodge proposal had been referred to the Environment Court, after the Mackenzie District Council received 18 submissions, all of which were in opposition.
Queenstown lawyer Graeme Todd is acting for the investors. He said he had only just received notification of the refusal of sale.
‘‘We’re asking the Environment Court to put the application on hold until we can get further information,’’ he said.
‘‘We are unaware of the specifics of conservation values that was referred to in the letter.’’ He maintained the proposed lodge would have had ‘‘significant public benefit’’.
Auckland-based lobby group Environmental Defence Society was one of the submitters against the proposal. Chairman Gary Taylor said the Linz decision signalled the winds of change.
‘‘I would think that the Blue Lake proposal would be dead in the water now,’’ Taylor said.
‘‘We’re looking at this decision as the first signal of positive change. We’ve got a new Minister of Land and Information, and we’re starting to see joined-up policy.’’
Mackenzie Guardians spokeswoman Rosalie Snoyink said it was good news for Pukaki. However, the group was waiting to see whether Blue Lake would appeal the decision.
Federated Mountain Clubs vice-president Jan Finlayson said she was pleased with the announcement. However, she felt it never should have got to this stage in the first place.
‘‘If something is a noncomplying activity, which this was, then it’s pretty obvious that it should not have been accepted,’’ Finlayson said.
‘‘It really should have been put to bed much earlier in the piece.’’
In December, Linz crown property deputy chief executive Jerome Sheppard said land which was formerly part of Guide Hill Station was taken by the Crown under the Public Works Act for the Waitaki Hydro Power Project in 1976.
The Mackenzie District Council planner’s report on the proposed lodge suggested the building would be a ‘‘noncompliant’’ activity.
A plan to build a luxury lodge on the shores of Lake Pukaki appears ‘‘dead in the water’’ following a decision from Land Information New Zealand, the Environmental Defence Society says.