A several hundred home development in the Maitai Valley will “tick a lot of boxes” according to its developers, including adding more homes close to the city, cleaning up “dead” stream and allowing the public to access tracks that are currently on private land.
But opponents say the development will ruin the peace and quiet of the valley by adding more traffic and filling a picturesque green space with hundreds of houses.
The development which is proposed to be built on former farmland in the Kaka Valley, off Ralphine Way in the Maitai Valley, will see hundreds of new homes built, starting at around $550,000 for a house and land package.
Until roughly a year ago, the land was mostly covered in gorse, wild goats and some grazing stock.
The farm was bought by Bayview Nelson Ltd in June last year with plans to develop parts of it into housing.
In December Bayview sold a section of the former farm to a local consortium including the Spittal, Coman and Vercoe families and Koata Ltd. Each hold a 25 percent shareholding.
The plan is to develop 315 acres of the 800 acre area into housing, a wetland area, walking and cycle tracks and native bush.
Andrew Spittal says the group presented to Nelson City Council last year to ask what they wanted from the development including walking and cycling tracks, services and wetlands.
Discussions were progressing well with council keen to see more housing close to Nelson city, but any development will need to go through three stages before being approved for construction: firstly, a zoning change from rural to residential and open space, then resource consent approval and finally construction.
Andrew Spittal says development north of the city is valuable because there has been little development north of the city meaning the roading networks are relatively underutilised.
He says cycling and walking tracks would also make it easy for residents to make their way to the city centre without using a car.
“We’re here trying to do the right thing, that’s why we’ve engaged with the council so early and been so open. We want to improve this area.”
Part of that improvement would be adding a 50 metre wide green corridor alongside the Kaka Stream and converting four hectares from grazing land into an ecological enhancement area beside the river, Andrew says.
Councillors heard about the proposed development late last year and many have since visited the area but not all think it’s a good idea.
Councillor Matt Lawrey has been vocal about the proposal and says it will “ruin the valley”.
He says the region’s pressing need for more housing should be addressed by high-density development in the central city.
“The 550 houses, the roads, the streetlights, the vehicles, the cats and dogs and everything that comes with the development will permanently change the nature of the Maitai Valley.
“The valley is an incredible playground for all Nelsonians to enjoy that’s a stone’s throw from the city. As the city grows, the valley’s value, in terms of its biodiversity and recreational opportunities, will also grow. Future generations will not thank us for allowing urban sprawl to permanently change its nature and character.”
He’d rather see development of the Toi Toi Grove subdivision between Princes Drive and Toi Toi St.
But the council’s own Future Development Strategy which was published last July, acknowledges that intensifying housing in the city alone will not solve the problem of a housing shortage in the region.
“House prices in Nelson and Tasman are some of the most unaffordable in New Zealand. If we don’t plan how to accommodate growth and demand remains strong, house prices may become even more unaffordable,” the report says.
“Growth forecasts vary, but given how fast we have been growing, we may need to find space for up to 40,000 extra people and 24,000 extra homes across Nelson and Tasman over the next 30 years.
“The FDS supports intensification of current urban settlements, especially Nelson, Stoke and Richmond. However, in a high growth scenario, this is unlikely to provide sufficient housing capacity or housing choices (due to limited areas suitable for intensification). Therefore some green field development may also be needed.”
The report has identified Kaka Valley in the Maitai as an area for possible housing.
Deputy mayor Judene Edgar is also supportive of more housing and says that any project will need to face tough scrutiny via the Resource Management Act process before anything happens.
“We definitely need more housing within walking and cycling distance to the CBD. Intensification alone is unlikely to meet population needs and there is no one housing solution for anyone regardless which age or stage they are at in their lives so as a city we need to ensure we are providing housing choice.”
But there is a growing number of those opposed.
Earlier this month the Save the Maitai group was formed saying the development would add too many cars on the valley’s roads and destroy the quiet enjoyment of the valley.
Spokesperson for Save the Maitai Tony Haddon has lived in the valley for 30 years and neighbours the proposed development.
He says he was “utterly, totally, shocked and absolutely devastated” when he heard about the proposal.
“There’s the obvious, selfish, nibby thing in that I’ve lived here 30 years, bought my kids up here and I really want it for Nelsonians to enjoy. And quite honestly, I don’t think this proposal is going to go ahead because neither the city council or developers have any idea of the depth of feeling in opposition to this idea.”
He says he’s been involved in many campaigns over the years and says this one has been “effortless” due to its massive support.
“We have a council that seems hell bent on keeping up with Richmond and I don’t understand that. We all feel there’s a housing shortage but if we build 500 houses in Kaka Valley all that will happen in that we’ll stuff the valley and in five or 10 years time we’ll still be looking for more houses.”
Asked what the land owners should do with the land if it wasn’t developed, he wasn’t sure. “We haven’t spoken very much about a solution, it’s in the back of our minds. At this point the alternatives are for someone else to worry about. Our energy is directed at stopping the land use change.”
He says just because Ngāti Koata are involved as shareholders it is no reason to push ahead.
“Everyone who gets Iwi on their side thinks they’ve got a really good case because everyone’s sh*t scared of Iwi and the ramifications. We’ve been pointing out that this isn’t Māori land.”
Andrew says they welcome robust criticism because they can learn from it but they feel the development will be a win for the city.
“All we want is the facts out there and for people to make up their own minds. We feel what we are doing will enhance our region. Inner city living isn’t affordable for first home buyers, nor is it where everyone wants to live.”
He says all of this will be better for the land than the farming that was taking place or turning the land into a pine forest, two options which they could do now with no consultation.
The next step once the application is lodged is for the council to decide whether the rezoning change should be publicly notified or not and then for a decision to be made.
If the rezoning is approved, developers will then turn their attention to a detailed design to gain resource consent.
Tony says that won’t be the only fight developers will have on their hands.
“We’re prepared to go as long as it takes. We’re forming a society shortly. We know it won’t be an easy fix but we know it’s not going to happen, I can say that.”