Wānaka Sun       

Castle on the hill breaches rules

Posted at 6:00am Thursday 15 Oct, 2020 | By Pat Deavoll editor@thewanakasun.co.nz

The Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) has approved the build of a “castle on the hill,” despite planning rules for the subdivision that were laid down in the late 1990's.

Murray Frost managed the original Penrith subdivision with sections first on the market in 1997.

“Part of that process and getting approval for it was that there were two Penrith zones agreed. One was residential of 1000 sq metres and the other was a large lot of 3000 square metres minimum. In addition, there was an area identified in conjunction with the Wanaka Environmental Society and the QLDC to protect the established views – the visual amenity line – if you were inside that line certain rules applied and if you were outside it, it was less restrictive 

“If you were inside, the key rules were that you couldn't break the skyline; earthworks and native tree removal were very restricted, and the house couldn't be seen from within 50m of the edge of the lake excluding. So basically the track around the lake was the area it couldn't be seen from. 

“That's since been interpreted to be screened and difficult to see. Then there was a standard rule that applied throughout Penrith that no house could exceed 7m height.” 

Frost said the build in question (which was within the visual amenity line), exceeded the 7m in some places by 1.9m and breached the skyline from the entirety of Penrith Park Drive. QLDC also approved the owners to excavate 1900sq m, which in conjunction with removal of a lot of kanuka made it even more visible.”

 “They break three key rules that have a significant impact - the skyline; exceeding the height limit, and the build is clearly visible from around the lake. And that's before the roof is added,” Frost said. 

“Those rules have often been a challenge for everybody else who builds in a sensitive area but we have tried to accommodate this as best we can.”

The council issued consent for the build in 2018 that identified the breaches as either minor or less than minor. For that reason, the build was not notified.

The consent includes the stipulations: the house won't break skyline from the track by the lake. And the height breach isn't discernible outside of the site. This photo  says otherwise 

“And it's that interpretation is frustrating because I and many others don't consider them to be minor at all,” said Frost.

“It's a huge house with a footprint of over 500sqm and a mix of two and three stories high. It's probably about a 900sqm concrete and glass house. At the moment what you see is a partially completed house which when the roof goes on will breach the skyline even more.”

“This is pretty much a castle on top of the ridge and illustrates many things that were intended to be avoided by both the developer and Council when the rules were established,” Frost said.

However, Frost said they weren't slandering the owners; rather the criticism was directed at QLDC.

It took several years to get approval for the Penrith subdivision and an important factor in the delay was getting agreement from the Wanaka Environmental Society and council planners, Frost said.  

“We fully supported the final rules because we wanted to protect the skyline and leave as much of the native foliage (manuka/kanuka ) as we could.  We certainly didn't want some monument sitting on top of the ridge. 

“To date that has worked really well and has done since the first section went on the market in 1997.

“It's just frustrating that QLDC has regarded what many residents see as blatant breaches of rules, particularly the skyline, as minor and not justifying public input.

“But when you see this partially completed house perched on top of the ridge, it's quite the castle on top of the hill.”

The owners of the property could not be contacted.

Read edition 996 of the Wānaka Sun here.



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