Wellington Scoop

Protecting the south coast; residents challenge approval for 13 new houses

houghton bay CU

by Coral Hyam
The Friends of Houghton Valley are fundraising to pay for a judicial review of the Wellington City Council’s decision to grant a non-notified resource consent for a development of thirteen houses at 215 Houghton Bay Road, on the boundary of the Te Raekaihau Park Reserve.

The subdivision plans show that this site (5182 square metres) could be used by 69 people in double storied, three and four bedroom houses. From the beginning, there was much public interest in this proposal. However, disappointingly, the City Council chose to ignore the community’s preference for public notification.

There is no other area in Houghton Valley, or on the South Coast, where this kind of intensive housing has been built. Wellington’s South Coast and its natural character is acknowledged in Wellington’s Regional Policy statement as having an effect on the wider character of the region. We believe that the density of the proposed housing on this site will permanently change the environment and character of the South Coast. Currently the built environment below the scenic reserve recedes into the distance. This proposal will intensify the existing housing pattern by more than three hundred percent.

While we accept that the applicant’s land is zoned as residential and will be developed to some extent, we believe that two to four houses would respect this area adjoining Te Raekaihau Park Reserve and be contextual.

Within the rules of the District Plan, this subdivision is not a permitted or controlled activity as it creates more than five lots. The proposed earthworks do not comply with the permitted activity conditions, which is why the subdivision into thirteen lots required a resource consent.

On April 9, the council announced 13 special housing areas as part of its housing accord. These sites focused on existing growth areas. Houghton Bay is not one of these areas.

The original resource consent application was submitted on 7th November 2013. The council examined the application and three weeks later on 28th November, it was put ‘on hold’ while further information was requested from the applicant. The decision to grant the consent without public notification was granted a year later, on 25 November 2014.

The “on hold” position, maintained right up till the consent decision was announced, sustained the expectation that the council might still notify the application. Both the substantive consent decision and the decision not to notify the application were communicated to the community at the same time.

More than one expert has looked at relevant parts of the District Plan and pointed out that, as well as significant issues, there were enough affected parties to warrant notification of this consent application. This page shows the fees schedule for resource consents. Public notification would have added $16K to the application fees. By choosing not to notify this application, the council has to now use many more thousands of ratepayers’ dollars to defend the decision, while the community has to find the money to hold them to account for their decision through a judicial review.

The many conditions attached to the consent show that the application was incomplete at the time of approval. For example, although there is obvious seepage on the site in wet weather, the important detail of a final geotechnical report has not been provided.

With regard to storm-water impacts and effects on existing public infrastructure, the consent acknowledges that the hydraulic effects of the proposed development on leachate contaminated flow during rainfall events have not been assessed and would require detailed hydraulic analysis/pipe hydraulic modelling. This has not been done. This aspect of the consent approval rests on the suggestion that there ‘could be’ an alternative option. We claim that this response is not conclusive.

houghton bay 2

This site’s character is integral to Wellington’s South Coast and the adjacent Reserve. Natural features such as the hillsides and escarpment faces are seen and enjoyed from the coastal road when travelling from the west. Right now there are two viewing platforms on the site where 2 out of 13 houses will be built. In the photos these platforms have been partly marked with red to show that this subdivision will definitely be seen from the coast road. There will be two more houses alongside and to the north of these two, and a further nine up the hill to the boundary of the scenic reserve above them. To the north of this site there are four houses on a similar size area of land.

The South Coast is widely recognised as an amenity landscape and a jewel in Wellington’s crown . . . Wellington’s “other face, an accessible wild exposed coastline contrasting with the sheltered harbour, and a point of arrival and departure for shipping and planes.” – (Environment Court Decision-Final-STP20-9-2007 Para.73)

We are seeking to overturn the council’s decision to not notify this RCA. A judicial review will be heard in the High Court at 10.00am on 21st October.

Coral Hyam is chair of the Friends of Houghton Bay.


  1. Lyall Bay, 22. September 2015, 12:44

    Pleased to see this happening, no matter what the future is for the coast we need to protect what we have. [via Twitter]

  2. JC, 22. September 2015, 12:48

    Do you really think the Council “chose” to ignore the community’s preference for public notification? Do you think the Council can change the rules on public notification on a case-by-case basis, depending on what a community prefers?

  3. Ian Apperley, 22. September 2015, 13:56

    “Do you really think the Council ‘chose’ to ignore the community’s preference for public notification? Do you think the Council can change the rules on public notification on a case-by-case basis, depending on what a community prefers?”
    Yep. Wouldn’t be the first time.

  4. Dolf van Asbeck, 22. September 2015, 15:09

    Council development project managers just have to learn that consultation is an iterative process and much more than a single local progressive association meeting that invites the developer to speak.

  5. Michael Gibson, 22. September 2015, 15:15

    In comment on “Yep. Wouldn’t be the first time”, I draw attention to the recent High Court success of our local Residents’ Association when the Wellington City Council was forced to back-track from a scheme for a mega-supermarket to be built in the middle of a residential part of Karori (Curtis Street).
    It is a disgrace that we are having bring judicial reviews and pay twice for such incompetence both as residents and as ratepayers (the Curtis Street mess cost the Council about $500,000 – & still they lost).
    In the Karori fiasco it was the Ward Councillors who were most to blame. Who is responsible for Houghton Bay?

  6. Anon, 23. September 2015, 12:54

    Looks like a good place for new houses, which Wellington so desperately needs. West-facing with good sea views.

  7. Susanna, 23. September 2015, 14:15

    It’s a terrible place for new houses. It was zoned red (not for building on) until mysteriously changed by the hcouncil recently (we are trying to find out why). It will also intensify the stormwater run off which is a huge problem in this area (acknowledged by the Regional Council). We need to analyse and make decisions carefully about housing for the future. What is the demographic profile of people who need housing? What is our housing problem? If we have a lack of housing, will homeless people be able to afford these (proposed) expensive ones? Will they want to go to an area very near the coast below the tsunami safe zone with sea levels rising, and with poor bus service to and from the city? I’m pretty sure this is about money and lack of proper planning, and sadly an uncaring attitude.

  8. CC, 23. September 2015, 18:23

    Does anyone know who owns the site, when they acquired it and what its zoning was prior to the last sale?

  9. Martin, 13. October 2015, 18:36

    A sad bunch of nimbys. They all own a house in the valley…why can’t others? I can hardly see the red-outline in the photos and if the land is zoned residential then why can’t residents live on it?

  10. Susanna Brow, 15. October 2015, 16:27

    With 160 members, it’s not a case of nimby behaviour. No one wants to stop others living here, but what is wanted is to stop someone making a quick buck from ruining character and environment in a lovely area. This is happening all over Wellington, NZ and much of the Western world. It needs to be stopped. I believe the “developer” has no intention to live in any of the houses he intends to build…

  11. Local, 11. November 2015, 11:08

    Ms Brow has undeniably changed the character of Houghton Bay as have Coral and Jacob, as has Roger of Fidels, as did Marco.
    Yes in my front yard but not in my neighbours, not sure about the acronym. Wannabe hippies get over yourselves, developers are young men trying to feed their families being held up by wealthy peeps with nothing better to do. Aaargh!!