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Mangawhai Central: You won’t know what you’ve got until its gone



matters logo-648When it purchased Estauary Estates, Viranda Partners promised plenty of community focused amenities and engagement. Unfortunately, the reality is beginning to look woefully different. A supermarket and petrol station were inevitable, even under the existing 500 lot Estuary Estate consent. So, nothing has changed…or has it?

The well thought out and much debated Estuary Estate plans, contained in Chapter 16 of the District Plan (EE), allowed for 500 houses - say 1500 additional people - in our community (plus some retail, commercial, and light industrial activity). This alone would change the face of Mangawhai, but at least it was intended to be in keeping with the current character of our coastal community.

However, in Private Plan Change 78 the developer, Mangawhai Central Ltd (within which Viranda Partners retains a 10 per cent shareholding), is aiming for at least 1000 houses - say 3000 additional people - alongside the various other amenities already consented in EE. The shrinking of section sizes and expanding of zones clearly indicate a much more intensive urban landscape than was thought acceptable previously.

It can be assumed that Viranda Partners would have anticipated a profitable development under the plan provisions of Chapter 16 when it purchased the property. (It is interesting, though, that it was revealed during the recent hearing that consultants were working on the changes before the purchase). However, MCL can make substantially more profit if the changes proposed in PPC78 can be implemented.

These changes, though, throw up serious issues for the rest of us, some of which we address here.

The community has asked many questions without getting any clear answers from Viranda Partners, Mangawhai Central Ltd, or Kaipara District Council. Unfortunately, if history is anything to go by, the community will only get the answers when, and if, MCL secures the plan change and then lodges resource consent applications for individual parts of the development. Here are some of the outstanding issues.


It is obvious that the earthworks to date are far greater than what was required to give life to the consented Estuary Estate project, even though PPC78 is not yet consented. Indeed, the hillside has been irrepairably carved out for a far greater density of visible houses than provided for Estuary Estates in the current district plan. What restrictions will the Commisioners impose, if any, on the development of so many 350sqm sections and the dense development land? What would MCL plan to develop on this intense zoning?

Among other things, Pacifecon, the building intelligence company, has revealed Viranda Holdings’ apparent intention to apply for and build a 6-storey, 60 bed hotel in Mangawhai Central. That announcement comes despite PPC78 providing for no more than four stories (which in itself greatly changes the character of Mangawhai).

PPC78 can be seen as pushing the sustainable limits of development in Mangawhai, but is MCL already looking beyond those limits?


Viranda has always claimed that the smaller lots and the shopping centre will be shielded from public view by planting along Molesworth Drive. Bt it’s a much taller ask if plantings are going to hide the incongruous and unsightly view of a 6-storey hotel or an intensely developed hillside.

Even if MCL does get consent to go down the path of urbanisation, it is to be hoped that KDC will at least impose serious landscaping requirements to try to disguise what will be an out-of-character development in a low density coastal environment.


Sell-off and the water dilemma
The reticulated water system to the proposed 500-600 small lots comes with huge costs for storage, pumping/piping and treatment to potable standards. The controversial water-take consent from NRC is a mockery in that there is little chance of the water from the consented stream off-takes ever filling or maintaining the proposed one million cubic litre reservoir. Indeed, the reservoir (or reservoirs) have not even been planned or consented.

Relying on taking high flows from the erratic stream tributaries of the upper harbour is a risky water supply strategy in the face of increasing drought prospects. More than that, it is potentially damaging to water quality in the harbour as high flows are part of the cycle of flushing sediment and contaminants arising from catchment development from the harbour’s upper reaches.

MCL was unable to confirm to the Commisioners that it would continue to own and operate its costly water scheme. Nor did it appear to have contingency plans in place for prolonged low flow, periods when supplementary ground water is usually in heavy demand by existing households. Can we only assume that MCL hopes to lay off that risk to ratepayers by vesting the system in the KDC?

If PPC78 is consented then MCL will probably not want to be saddled with the many millions of dollars required to build and operate a potable water supply. One solution may be to dump its proposal for a large number of lots under 500sqm and, instead, create properties with the capacity to collect sufficient roof-top water for individual households, as the community has been arguing.

Another option that MCL might opt for would be to develop the bigger lots that don’t need reticulated water, and sell off the higher density zoned land to other developers or housing companies, leaving the new owners to sort out water supply. The upshot is that the council cannot know who will be left standing to meet the cost of building and operating a water-supply plant unless it is considering ratepayers taking over this responsibility.

One rumour is that the smaller lots will be sold to Kiwibuild and other Government agencies for social and state housing. However, with a high cost or unreliable water supply and limited local employment capacity, it is hard to see takers for an affordable development on the site.


Sewerage connection
This is perhaps the biggest of several “elephants in the room”. KDC has still not answered the key questions around the sewerage reticulation and treatment needs of the proposed development. We assume that MCL will be required to pay for the additional network, plant, and disposal capacity needed by its development. However we don’t yet know the numbers of their connections, whether the full developer costs will be passed on, or when the development contributions will be paid.

What we do know is that development contributions, and other levies, were supposed to pay for the EcoCare debacle, yet there is $26 million still owing with very few connections left available. There is no budget in the draft Long Term Plan to repay the outstanding debt but there is a published commitment to borrow more for any increased capacity.

Given that the wider Kaipara community has paid off its share of the EcoCare debt we can only assume that KDC will ask Mangawhai residents to pay the remainder alongside the cost of any increased capacity shortfall. However, seeking cost recovery for the additional capacity for Mangawhai Central and requiring its residents to contribute towards the existing plant through development contributions could put another nail in the coffin of high density development. Or is this going to be another cost of development that will be “socialised”, i.e. shared through rates by the community at large. Or is it another reason to accept that, unlike Estuary Estates, Mangawhai Central is an exercise in planning for unsustainable development?

Even if the PPC78 is approved by the Commissioners, as more facts and fallacies emerge there is no guarantee that all that is planned will be consented.

n Want to join the Mangawhai Matters Society Inc. as a member and have a say? It’s only $20 per family per year. Please make deposits to 01-0204-0160241-00. Following your payment please email us at mangawhaimatters@gmail.com giving us your name, phone, and address so we can keep in touch.

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