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1 BEFORE THE ENVIRONMENT COURT Decision No: [2012] NZEnvC 262 ENV CHC IN THE MATTER of an appeal under s 120 of the Resource Management Act 1991 BETWEEN MOUNT FIELD LIMITED Appellant AND THE QUEENSTOWN LAKES DISTRICT COUNCIL Respondent Court: Environment Judge C J Thompson Environment Commissioner H A McConachy Environment Conunissioner K A Edmonds Hearing: at Queenstown 8-11 October 2012: site visit 11 October 2012 Counsel/Representative: W P Goldsmith for Mount Field Limited P A Steven for the Greenslade Family- s274 party J R Hall- s274 party M A Ray for the Queenstown Lakes District Council DECISION ON APPEAL Decision issued: l1q DEC 2012 b, The appeal is declined and the Council's decision is confirmed Costs are reserved

2 2 Introduction [ 1) In a decision dated 14 December 2011 Commissioners appointed by the Queenstown Lakes District Council declined an application for a subdivision consent and land use consents, including the variation of existing consents, relating to a parcel of land on Coronet Peak Road, near Queenstown. Mount Field Limited (MFL) is the owner of the land and appeals against that decision. Background [2) The land in question is pmt of a 1768ha remnant of the once much larger high country station formerly known as Wharehuanui. The remnant is now known as Mt Dewar Station and the area on which development and building is proposed is 66ha, or some 3.7% of the whole. It is common ground that the property, given its size, topography and lack of warmer flats, is presently not capable of being an economic stand-alone farming unit. Such farming use as it has had since MFL bought it in 1994 has been by a neighbouring farmer having grazing rights, free of charge. When MFL bought it the land was held in leasehold from the Crown - it has since been freeholded through the tenure review process. Since 1994 the property has been through several resource consent processes, and we shall return to that history shortly. [3] Dr Kelvin Lloyd, an ecologist giving evidence for the applicant, provided a map of the vegetation and the tenure arrangements, including the DOC land, which illustrates the site and surroundings. [4] That map (see overleal) shows the existing forest proposed for clearance on the southern face of the property at its south-west extremity. The property is bisected by a large gorge formed by Devils Creek. As a result of the tenure review process this --~ " remained in Crown ownership and is administered by DOC, so the property since ;:::...:...:::(Qily}iple (2006) has been effectively divided in two -joined only by Skippers Road ~~~;tern end. Land along the Shotover River is also in Crown ownership and by DOC.

3 Donso snow tussock grassland Exotic brondlonvod!orosi ond brior shrublond Zono of malaoourl domlnaolshrublands Mat> 1: Generalised distribution of vegetation on the Mt Dewar site 0 ~~5--~~~~~. tn 4 Contmct Roi>Ort No. 1098a

4 4 [5] The south-facing land on which the proposal would go is noted in the District Plan as part of the Outstanding Natural Landscape- Wakatipu Basin (ONL-WB). The development is proposed to stretch for some 1700m along the northwestern side of Coronet Peak Road (shown on some maps as part of Skippers Road) from its intersection with Malaghans Road, just a little notih of Arthurs Point. The present proposal [6] The present proposal is to enable: [a] 12lots of between I 290m 2 and 3230m 2, each with a building platform for a single house, [b] a Lodge and two houses on a further lot of ha. [ c] There will be a balance lot of 360.3ha which will be in the same Title as the rest of Mt Dewar Station. That will leave the Station with an area of 1404ha containing two proposed residences which could be an owner's residence and a farm manager's residence, and a farm utility shed. That appears to us to be eighteen structures spread over the site. There will of course be access roads to the individual lots. There is no dispute about engineering issues such as roading, power, water and sewerage - it is common ground that that they are all manageable. There are also consequential applications to vary the terms of previously granted consents and we shall discuss those shotily. [7] The MFL proposal now contains what it presents as three significant differences from that presented to the Council. We do not understand the parties to contend that any of the differences are outside the scope of the application. Those are: An additional consent condition requmng biodiversity values to be maintained and enhanced actively through a Biodiversity Management Planin addition to the eradication of wilding trees. An option for the Council to acquire the balance of Mt Dewar Station for a nominal ($1.00) price at any time in the future. The potential for the owner of Mt Dewar Station to obtain carbon credit

5 5 We shall discuss those changes to the proposal, and the question of the likelihood of carbon credits, in the course of the decision. [8] Other suggested positive effects will be discussed later, but at this point we mention that allowing the subdivision on the terms proposed would enable those with a financial interest in this land to dispose of it and recoup the money that has been put into it- and quite possibly see a profit as well. That would have positive effects with benefits for the owners and help them provide for their economic wellbeing in terms ofs5. [9] Mr David Broomfield, who is a director of MFL and who gave evidence on its behalf, considered that another benefit would be the opportunity given the Council, should it wish to take it up, of acquiring the balance lot at a nominal price. Mr Broomfield suggested that it may be valuable as a reserve or recreation ( eg mountain-biking and the like) oppottunity. Thus far, the Council has indicated no interest in doing so. MFL offered it to the Council as long ago as 1995 at its then leasehold value of $550,000, but the Council declined that offer. [10] MFL is prepared to make land access available, and contribute a $10,000 cash grant towards the cost of making a bike trail. The Queenstown Mountain Bike Club has planned an intermediate single track trail from Coronet Peak to the base of Coronet Peak Road/Malaghans Road intersection. Where the legal road reserve is not wide enough MFL is willing to make access next to the road available. This will provide a link between present trails and provide a substantial benefit for those who enjoy this form of recreation. There is also a proposed separate easement for public walking access connecting to other existing tracks and easements. The property's consent histmy [11] This is, we have to say, a history that is not entirely easy to follow. There was no attempt to suggest that unexercised resource consents were part of the '-ei1vi.j'oj1m.~nt in the sense discussed in Queenstown Lakes DC v Hawthorn Estate Ltd NZRMA 424 (CA) but, unless it was clear that they would not be pursued, t-\lc~llmllgm be considered as pmt of the existing baseline in considering the effects of

6 6 the proposal, subject however to Rule l(xi)(b) of the District Plan which provides: Farm Buildings The existence of a farm building approved under Rule (i)(d) shall not be considered the permitted baseline for development within the Rural General Zone. [12] As the Commissioners did, we shall deal with the consents, all granted to the present owner, MFL, in date order. We also comment on elements of the applications before us that involve the cancellation of, and a variation to, the requirements of several conditions on the existing consents. [13] The consent history involves: 28 March 2007 (RM070059)- a hayshed in Long Gully. This is distant from the subject site and not of direct relevance. 21 February 2008 (RM ) - creation of one residential building platform and modification of an accessway. Originally declined by the Council - later agreed and the subject of a Court Consent Order. The platform is the same as Platform A in the present application. Condition 20 required a Wilding Tree Management Plan before any application for consent to build on the platform. Condition 21 required a restrictive covenant, within three months of the issue of the consent, to provide for no other building development on the property except for a woolshed, two haybarns, one further residential building platform (not to be on a separate title), one implement shed and two musterers' huts. The controlled consent for any building on the platform was not to be applied for until substantial progress had been made on the construction of the woolshed and hay barns. 21 May 2008 (RM070228) - consent for a woolshed, a haybarn, and earthworks. These are the woolshed and one of the haybams referred to in RM The consent for the woolshed required a landscaping plan, and part of that plan required the extension of conifers for screening. That is inconsistent with the present application and MFL applies for the cancellation of that requirement. The wool shed has not been built, but MFL relies on it as a permitted baseline for part of its present application - the visitor

7 7 accommodation on Platform 14. The Commissioners' decision records that they were given no explanation for why a woolshed was considered necessary in 2008, but is necessary no longer. Nor were we, save for the general proposition that... times have changed. 7 November 2008 (RM080098) - consent for a 967m 2 residential platform and associated earthworks and landscaping. This is Platform B of the current application. No work has been done under this consent. 20 November 2008 (RM ) - consent to erect a hayshed and associated earthworks. This is the second hay barn contemplated in RM The current application seeks a residential building platform on the same site. 18 December 2008 (RM081339)- this is a variation ofrm070228, changing the proposed haybarn to the proposed implement shed/workshop. There was also a requirement to provide potable water to the shed, and to manage stormwater and wastewater disposal. There apparently was some reliance on the presence of wilding vegetation to provide a degree of screening of this structure. 6 March 2009 (RM090046) - upgrading of the existing farm track - this to provide access to what is now Platform B and the woolshed (see RM070228). 9 December 2009 (RM090060) - a consent for a building platform on the southern side of Coronet Peak Road. Said to have been for the purpose of raising funds for the wilding control programme- as required by RM This has been implemented - this platform is not on the site of the current application. 18 January 2010 (RM090372)- amends RM070228, as previously amended by RM Consent to use the hayshed (later implement shed) as a farm manager's residence for five years. This building exists and some work has been done towards converting it to the temporary residence. This consent also pwported (the Commissioners' word) to vary the restrictive covenant in RM On its face value, this history can be seen as a steady building of the intensity c~11sents for construction and development on the property, but with remarkably of what was consented, and what was required by covenants and the like,

8 8 having actually been done over the more than five years, and nine granted consents, since the process began. Between 2004 and 2008 wilding clearance work was done on the property by MFL in collaboration with the Whakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group and DOC. The success of this was praised by the Council at the time, but the work substantially ceased because further funds were not available. [ 15] Mr Broomfield made some point of saying that the company, over and above the purchase cost of the land, had spent over $!.OM in legal and other professional fees to, as he put it... fly and achieve the wilding pine programme previously agreed with the Council. A critic of that view might, perhaps unkindly, say that the direct expenditure of that sort of money on wilding eradication and control might have produced substantial progress on the problem, but spending it on a long-term resource consent strategy has achieved comparatively little. Mr Broomfield quite openly acknowledged that some of the consents obtained along the way had been... ridiculous. The parties' positions [16] MFL wishes to subdivide the land, obviously enough to provide a commercial return on-the significant sums of money it has spent on acquiring it, and since. Mr Broomfield told us that it wishes to create an ownership and management structure which will mean that the land as a whole - both the residential sites and the balance of the Station - will be well managed into the future. The particular concern in that regard is the problem created by wilding trees invading the open high-country grass and tussock lands so familiar in this part of the world. The tree variety most commonly spoken of is conifers - mostly Douglas Fir and some Pinus Radiata - but others such as larch and sycamore (which have their genesis in amenity plantings) also feature. This is a problem common to many stretches of Central Otago and is largely, so far as conifers are concerned, a legacy of (now regretted) plantations for production forestry. The proposed ownership structure would give the owners of the residential lots to roam over the whole of the Station, the right being preserved by way of They will not share in the ownership of the balance Station but they will to contribute to the cost of running the Station (bearing in mind that it

9 9 will not be a self-contained economic unit,) including the ongoing costs of the wilding eradication and control programme. MFL will bear the cost of the initial killing of existing seed-bearing wilding trees - that being a term of obtaining its s224(c) certification. The present estimate is that each owner would have to contribute c$7,500- $10,000 pa, and MFL's goal is to achieve a sufficient number of lots so as to keep it to that level. Mr Broomfield believes that the property is not likely to be as popular as the development at Closeburn Station (which we are about to mention) and will not be able to sustain higher annual contributions. [18) In terms of the future funding model, Mr Broomfield has experience of what he described as a broadly similar scheme in which the owners of subdivided lots are required to contribute to the ongoing costs of running an otherwise uneconomic farm on the balance of the original land. This was set up on Close bum Station, purchased in 1992 by J F Investments NZ Ltd, another company in which Mr Broomfield had an interest. The company subdivided the land into 27 rural lifestyle lots, and each lot owner also had a 112ih share in the balance c1300ha freehold farm property, and one share each in the company set up to manage that farm. Each owner is levied annually to cover the shotifall between fanning income and management costs (including wilding control). Currently the levy is about $20,000 pa. We understand that all of the lots have been sold, and about one-half of them have been built on. The present market value of the bare lots is between $!.1m and $2.4m, and there are covenants designed to prevent further subdivision in the next 50 years. [ 19] Mr E Cruikshank was a s274 party to the appeal but withdrew his interest shortly before the hearing. [20] Mr James Hall is a resident of Mountain View Rd, which looks across the valley towards the site. He is a third-generation Queenstown resident and values the presently available vistas and open spaces. He emphasises that before buying his present propetiy he examined the District Plan and believed that its terms would

10 10 environment and have good plans to manage the land. For his own sake and what he sees as that of the community generally he opposes this proposal. [21] The Greenslade family were once Crown leaseholders who lived on Wharehuanui when it was a much larger, and viable, high-country station. The family believe that they were good custodians of the land while they were its occupiers and farmers, and they mourn the prospect of even a relatively small part of it being subdivided for residential purposes, meaning that its farming potential will be lost, effectively forever. [22] The Council is content with the decision made by its Commissioners and opposes the appeal. It takes the view that the adverse effects of the residential proposal outweigh the positive effects of the proposed environmental compensation package and the eradication of the existing seed-bearing trees and the proposed structure for future wilding and weed control. It does not accept MFL's assettions that there is no possibility of wilding and weed control being achieved in other ways. The site and its environs [23] The property is located seven kilometres from Queenstown on the northern flank of the ring of mountains surrounding the Wakatipu Basin. It is part of a series of mountain ranges stretching over a very large area north, east and westward. Views towards it are uncluttered and the sweeping tussock grassland flanks of Mt Dewar can be readily identified to the west of Coronet Peak and the Skippers Saddle. h ~v;..;;..-.:.::.: l')j!~scjck [24] The tawny landscapes of the upper slopes of the encircling mountains are regarded as outstanding and ownership patterns are not distinctive, although some roading and fencing mark human use. The most contrasting visual pattern intruding upon the panorama of open mountain slopes is the plantation and wilding spread of exotic trees. These are different in shape and colour and have become, in patts, a dominating landscape feature. These two patterns - one of rugged rock and open """' l"'~~.. landscape. grasslands, and plantation and wilding expansion, are also a part of the Mt

11 11 [25] The property is bounded to the west by the Shotover River Rese1ve, Long Gully is to the North, with Coronet Peak Road and Skippers Road winding along most of the eastern and northeastern boundary. Arthurs Point Road is close to the southwestern boundary with the small settlement of Arthurs Point being the closest development, about 1.2 kilometres to the south-west. [26] The landform is variable with gentle, hummocky, steep and rugged slopes and occasional rocky outcrops. It rises from the 480m contour to the peak of Mt Dewar at I,259m above sea level. There remains some remnant native bush. Tussock grasslands prevail across the property although these have come under increasing pressure from animal and plant pest species. Zoning and planning status [27] The property is within the Rural General zone of the Queenstown Lakes District Plan and the area proposed for the built development on the southern face is within the Outstanding Natural Landscape- Wakatipu Basin (ONL-WB) landscape classification. The rest of the property is part of the Outstanding Natural Landscape District Wide - (ONL-DW). It is agreed that the proposal as now presented is a discretionmy (unrestricted) activity and is therefore to be considered under s 104 and Pmt 2 of the Act. Assuming subdivision consent, the subsequent construction of houses on defined building platforms is a controlled activity (although this would not be the case with the proposed Lodge), meaning that consent must be granted, subject to the ability to impose conditions to deal with defined issues. Our Approach [28] Rather than traverse the matters we need to address under the headings in s 104 of the RMA, we deal with them in terms of the factors and issues that are in dispute before coming to our overall judgement under Part 2 of the Act. That has the advantage that by addressing the effects, the relevant District Plan provisions, other matters and specific Part 2 matters together, we can reduce repetition in a way that The outstanding natural landscape The wilding control programme

12 12 The biodiversity management plan Whether the ecological benefits outweigh the adverse landscape effects. [29] No National Policy Statements or matters arising from regional planning documents were brought to our attention as being significant, and accordingly we do not traverse these. The Outstanding Natural Landscape [30] There is one matter, declared to be of national significance in s6 of the RMA, which requires particular attention. That part of s6 provides: In achieving the purpose of this Act, all persons exercising functions and powers under it, in relation to managing the use, development, and protection of natural and physical resources, shall recognise and provide for the following matters of national importance:... (b) The protection of outstanding natural features and landscapes from inappropriate subdivision, use, and development:... [31] We better appreciated the evidence on landscape effects once we had flown over, and walked over, the site and its surroundings. The site, while not reaching the peak of Mt Dewar, is high above the valley floor to the east and southeast, and structures and works on it will be prominently visible from the valley, the opposite side of the valley, from higher parts of Coronet Peak Road, and elsewhere. This will add a discordant built f01m to a landscape that, Coronet Peak Road aside, is all but free of intrusion into the tawny mountainside leading up to the Mt Dewar peak, and on to Coronet Peak. The latter, we acknowledge, cettainly has highly visible structures on and around the skifield, but they are 4 - Skm from the proposed development site.,,,?-.v 'l:~les, How does the proposal align with the landscape provisions of the District Plan? The operative District Plan has a number of relevant objectives, policies and :11\l~*lop,mtmt and there is a strong policy direction towards the avoidance of subdivision and within the District's outstanding natural landscapes, and patticularly of the Wakatipu Basin. That direction is contained within provisions that are

13 13 not just in the Rural General part of the District Plan, but appear in other parts such as those dealing with Subdivision. These provisions include the district-wide Objective at to ensure that: Subdivision, use and development being undertaken in the District in a manner which avoids, remedies or mitigates adverse effects on landscape and visual amenity values. And the key Landscape Policy for the ONL-WB (see para [27]) is at : To avoid subdivision and development on the outstanding natural landscapes and features of the Wakatipu Basin unless the subdivision and/or development will not result in adverse effects which will be more than minor on: Landscape values and natural character; and Visual amenity values Recognising and providing for: (iii) The desirability of ensuring that buildings and structures and associated roading plans and boundmy developments have a visual impact which will be no more than minor, which in the context of the landscapes of the Wakatipu Basin means reasonably difficult to see. (emphasis added) (iv) The need to avoid further cumulative deterioration of the Wakatipu Basin's outstanding natural landscapes; (v) The importance of protecting the naturalness and enhancing the amenity values of views from public places and public roads; [33] Clause iii explains why discretionmy status is given to houses within an Outstanding Natural Landscape (ONL): Because in or on outstanding natural landscapes and features the relevant activities are inappropriate in almost all locations within the Zone, particularly within the Wakatipu basin (sic) or in the Inner Upper Clutha area. (emphasis added) The assessment criteria for discretionmy activities are set out in Rule : (I) Outstanding Natural Landscapes - Wakatipu Basin and Outstanding Natural Features- District Wide. These assessment matters should be read in the light of two further guiding principles. First that they are to be stringently applied to the effect that successful applications for resource consent will be exceptional cases.... (emphasis added) (a) Effects on openness of landscape

14 14 In considering whether the proposed development will maintain the openness of those outstanding natural landscapes and features which have an open character at present when viewed from public roads and other public places, the following matters shall be taken into account: (i) whether the subject land is within a broadly visible expanse of open landscape when viewed from any public road or public place; (ii) whether, and the extent to which, the proposed development is likely to adversely affect open space values with respect to the site and surrounding landscape; (iii)whether the site is defined by natural elements such as topography and/or vegetation which may contain and mitigate any adverse effects associated with the development. (b) Visibility of development In considering the potential visibility of the proposed development and whether the adverse visual effects are minor, the Council shall be satisfied that: (i) the proposed development will not be visible or will be reasonably difficult to see when viewed from public roads and other public places and in the case of proposed development in the vicinity of unformed legal roads, the Council shall also consider present use and the practicalities and likelihood of potential use of unformed legal roads for vehicular and/or pedestrian, equestrian and other means of access; and (ii) the proposed development will not be visually prominent such that it dominates or detracts from public or private views otherwise characterised by natural landscapes; and (v) the proposed development is not likely to adversely affect the appreciation of landscape values of the wider landscape (not just the immediate landscape). (vi) the proposal does not reduce neighbours' amenities significantly. (c) Visual coherence and integrity of landscape In considering whether the proposed development will adversely affect the visual coherence and integrity of the landscape and whether these effects are minor, the Council must be satisfied that: (i) structures will not be located where they will break the line and form of any ridges, hills and any prominent slopes;

15 15 (ii) any proposed roads, emihworks and landscaping will not affect the naturalness of the landscape; (iii) any proposed new boundaries will not give rise to artificial or unnatural lines or otherwise adversely (such as planting and fence lines) affect the natural form of the landscape. (e) Cumulative effects of development on the landscape In considering the potential adverse cumulative effects of the proposed development on the natural landscape with particular regard to any adverse effects on the wider values of the outstanding natural landscape or feature will be no more than minor, taking into account: (i) whether and to what extent existing and potential development (ie. Existing resource consent or zoning) may already have compromised the visual coherence and naturalness of the landscape; (ii) where development has occurred, whether further development is likely to lead to further degradation of natural values or domestication of the landscape or feature such that the existing development and/or land use represents a threshold with respect to the site's ability to absorb further change; (iii) whether, and to what extent the proposed development will result in the introduction of elements which are inconsistent with the natural character of the site and surrounding landscape; (iv) whether these elements in (iii) above will fmiher compromise the existing natural character of the landscape either visually or ecologically by exacerbating existing and potential adverse effects; (v) where development has occurred or there is potential for development to occur (ie. Existing resource consent or zoning), whether fmiher development is likely to lead to further degradation of natural values or domestication of the landscape or feature. [34] Further relevant Plan provisions include: Policy 4 (Part 4.10 Earthworks) that seeks to avoid adverse visual effects of earthworks on outstanding natural landscapes. Policy 1.7 (Part 5 Rural Areas) that seeks to preserve the visual coherence of the landscape.

16 16 Policy 4.3 (Patt 15 Subdivision, Development & Financial Contributions) that seeks to avoid any potential adverse effects on the landscape and amenity values (of outstanding natural landscapes). Policy 5.1 (Part 15) that seeks to... ensure subdivision patterns and the location, size and dimensions of lots in rural areas will not lead to a pattern of land uses, which will adversely affect landscape, visual... and other amenity values. [35] Gathering those strongly directive threads of the document and applying them to the proposal, the primary conclusion to emerge is that the buildings and their cuttilages (and perhaps at least some roading and earthworks) of the completed proposal will be set high above the valley floor and will be visible from the higher parts of the Coronet Peak Road, from Malaghans Road and the properties around it, from the roads and properties above Malaghans Road and across the valley from the site, and will be visible from other public viewpoints as well. This was well illustrated in a table of viewpoints developed as a result of conferencing of the Landscape Architect witnesses. [36] The buildings most cettainly will not be... reasonably difficult to see... which means (see (iii)) that their visual impact will be more than minor. That... more than minor... visual impact effect will be an adverse effect in terms of the Policy and is therefore to be avoided (ie without the options of remedy or mitigation). Similarly, the proposal conflicts with paras (iv) and (v) of the Policy. It would add to the existing adverse effects on the Wakatipu Basin's ONLs, and thus be cumulative; and would not protect the naturalness of, nor enhance the amenity values of, the views from public places and roads. [37] In considering the reason for denoting a discretionmy status (see para [33]) and the assessment criteria for discretionmy activities (see Rule para [33] we conclude that the proposal is in further difficulties, first in maintaining the openness ONLs which have an... open character... when viewed from public roads and In terms of criterion (a) it is within a broadly visible expanse of open at)<~4~tpe when viewed from public roads and places. It is, to a considerable extent,

17 17 likely to adversely affect the open space values of the site and its surrounding landscape. In terms of Criterion (a)(iii), we saw no definition by topography or vegetation to contain or mitigate adverse effects. Criterion (b)... visibility of development... also raises problems. The development will be visible and will not be reasonably difficult to see from public roads and places. It will be visually prominent to the degree that it is likely to detract from public and private views characterised by natural landscapes. It is likely to reduce neighbours' ( eg Mr Hill on Mountain View Road, across the valley) amenities, arguably significantly. Its structures and roads and earthworks are likely to affect the naturalness of the landscape ((c)(ii)), and its boundaries and fencelines are likely to give rise to artificial or unnatural lines. In terms of para (e), we have already mentioned the issue of cumulative effects- see eg para [36]. [38] We remind ourselves that, in terms of the Rule, the criteria... are to be stringently applied to the effect that successfitl applications for resource consents will be exceptional cases. That certainly is a specific and very pointed exception to the view that the attribution of discretionwy status to an activity can be taken to mean that the terms of the Plan are neutral as to whether it might be granted consent. Conclusion on the Plan's landscape provisions [39] It is the position of the Council, and the parties suppmting it, that the proposal would be an... inappropriate subdivision, use and development of this land, which is within the area of the Outstanding Natural Landscape- Wakatipu Basin (ONL-WB). Given the negative landscape effects of the subdivision and built development proposal, and the exceptionally strong and clear provisions in the Plan about landscapes, and Outstanding Natural Landscapes in pmticular, we have to agree that such a conclusion is inevitable. [40] In short, we agree with the witnesses for the Council, Ms Helen Mellsop, a landscape architect, and Mr Chris Ferguson, a planner. We also note that the ---~ '<'''_ '*~m:ss :s for the applicant, Mr Ben Espie, the landscape witness, and Mr Carey "lv'"u the planner, supported the proposal on the basis of the benefits of the wilding

18 18 control programme (and perhaps the Biodiversity Management Plan) outweighing the negatives for the Outstanding Natural Landscape of the Wakatipu Basin. Wilding control [ 41] The benefit advanced by MFL as the most significant of all was the prospect that the sale of the subdivided lots would provide funding for the eradication of the existing wilding trees and the killing of a prolific source of wind-blown seeds - the production forestry lot at the south-western boundary of the Mt Dewar land. Further, the arrangements to be put in place would oblige the future owners to undertake and fund ongoing wilding control indefinitely, with grazing of the balance lot an integral part of the strategy (although we were left in some doubt about what was intended here, particularly given the provisions in the Biodiversity Management Plan). We note again also that Condition 20 of Resource Consent RM (see para [13]) required a Wilding Tree Management Plan before building could commence on the platform approved by that consent, that platform being now incorporated in the current proposal. [ 42] The distinctive feature of the MFL position was the assumption that a wilding eradication and control programme on the property would occur only if the proposal is given consent. In the absence of the successful conclusion of the development, MFL predicted no outcome other than that wildings would occupy the whole of the land within 80 years. As Mr Goldsmith put it in his closing submissions: The wilding pine conifer control programme is a fimdamental part of the overall package. [ 43] However, Mr Broomfield assured us that he was honouring the agreement with DOC to continue the eradication programme on the covenanted areas to the east. [44] Others do not see wilding eradication and control as necessarily depending on the subdivision at all, which we return to after considering the predictions on wilding -:-;;~J;;~:pn~ad and its potential effects, and the likelihood of it being dealt with without the and development proposal.

19 19 The Proposed Wilding Control Programme [ 45] Mr James Cowan, the Biodiversity Threats Ranger at DOC, gave evidence that shortly before the Council hearing of this application, the Director-General of DOC reached agreement with MFL on the eradication of the 50ha plantation, and the appropriate terms on wilding tree control to be included in any resource consent. The suggested consent condition seems to be this: In consultation with the Department of Conservation, the consent holder shall kill seed bearing age Pine (all Pinus species including Pinus Cont01ta, Corsican Pine, Scots Pine, Maritime Pine and Radiata Pine), Douglas Fir, Larch and Sycamore on the propetty. Note: Taking into account the size of the propetty, and the fact that wilding tree eradication will be achieved pmtially through aerial spraying, it is likely that I 00% eradication of seed bearing wilding trees will not be achieved at the first attempt. Compliance with this condition will be satisfied provided that most are killed prior to s224(c) approval. The balance will be eradicated under the ongoing eradication and maintenance programme detailed in Conditions 25(m) and (n). [ 46] The wilding control programme was put forward as dealing with not just a landscape issue, allowing the retention of the tawny slopes of the Wakatipu Basin outstanding natural landscape, but also a potential ecological problem. The programme agreed to with DOC would sit together with conditions which involve future lot owners. The owners of lots 1-7, 9-13, 15-16, 20 and 22 would be responsible for wildings on their own lots. They, together with the owners of lot 21 and the balance land outside Site 7 to the n01th would be jointly responsible for wildings in lot 21 and the balance land. The owner of lot 21 and the balance are responsible for ensuring the ongoing implementation of the BMP (at the joint cost of all the owners.) The Council would have broad enforcement powers to remedy noncompliance. Should the Council exercise the option to buy the balance land it would, logically, assume the obligations of the landowner. There are several specific provisions in Part 2 of the RMA that are relevant to '{!Wi~icm-makit1g on ecological issues. Section 5 refers to... safeguarding the lifet!,.~tz>poo tirzg capacity of ecosystems. Section 6 specifies that decision-makers are to

20 20 recognise and provide for... the protection of areas of significant indigenous vegetation and significant habitats of indigenous fauna; and under s7 are to have particular regard to the... intrinsic values of ecosystems and any finite characteristics of natural resources. [ 48] There was no disagreement that wilding control is desirable, particularly for landscape values on the Wakatipu Basin face of the property and also for broader ecological reasons. Dr Kelvin Lloyd, a consultant ecologist called by MFL, summed up the situation as: If exotic forest was allowed to develop across Mt Dewar, I would expect a major net loss of indigenous biological diversity values to occur, due to multiple declines in indigenous vegetation and plant diversity, bird diversity and abundance, lizard abundance, and invettebrate diversity and abundance. [49] No district-wide ecological survey has been carried out for either the Queenstown Lakes District or the Shotover Ecological District. However MFL has commissioned a number of ecological assessments of Mt Dewar which have helped to identify native fauna and flora values. Foremost of these is the 2007 report authored by Dr Lloyd, who attached this to his evidence together with other relevant reports. Related and supplementary to these were the reports and evidence given on pests, particularly woody species, and these have also informed our understanding of the ecological values of the site. [50] The District Plan framework for assessment of Areas of Significant Indigenous Vegetation, or s6( c) matters, is contained in Appendix 5. Dr Lloyd has considerable experience in the application of these or similar criteria developed for measuring ecological values of an area and their significance. The components cover representativeness, rarity, diversity and pattern, distinctiveness/special ecological character, size and shape, connectivity and long term sustainability. In his evidence Dr Lloyd discussed these factors, taking into account reports from other specialists, in particular those by Mr B H Patrick, an entomologist, (2005 report) and Mr M D ~seal 0,<> ">.'<0 ~ cher, a herpetologist (2004 survey).

21 21 [51] Dr Lloyd's assessment is well summarised in paragraph 24 of his brief of evidence: Mt Dewar contains a wide range of habitat for indigenous flora and fauna. Two hundred indigenous species have been recorded on the property, which is a very high indigenous species richness, caused by local factors (wide altitudinal range, strong aspects contrast, habitat diversity) and by regional factors such as the sites location at the 'ecotone' between wet western mountains and dry inland basins (Lloyd 2007.) The site has been extensively modified by historic fires and grazing but remnants of all the likely pre European vegetation types remain present, even though some have been reduced to vety small examples. [52] He concluded that Mt Dewar has ecological values sufficient to warrant protection under s6( c), although he expressed a strong concern that uncontrolled pests, in particular wilding trees, could destroy those values. Dr Lloyd's assessment covered the land in the map shown earlier and it can be seen that many of the indigenous vegetation remnants have been retained in Crown ownership, and administered by DOC. He did not think that significant ecological values were present on the proposed house sites. [53] We accept Dr Lloyd's uncontroverted evaluation of ecological significance with its three qualifications: - there is nothing of significance to be found on the development site; many of the ecological sites containing valued remnants are found in the conservation estate which is not now part of the MFL land, and uncontrolled wilding trees have the potential to threaten current and future indigenous habitats. We bear all these factors in mind in coming to our overall assessment. The Predictions on Wilding Spread [54] Mr Mark Belton is a professional forester who has, since 2004, had a focus on growing forests for environmental services, primarily carbon sequestration, and he was a witness for the Council. Mr Belton gave evidence that there is approximately 83 hectares of maturing,;~0[ ~ \ within Mt Dewar Station, almost entirely at the southern end, close to Arthurs and Coronet Peak Road, with a fmther adjoining 26 hectares of maturing

22 22 stands on the Boyd property, and 16ha of about 15 year old Douglas fir belonging to Mackerel Holdings, close to the eastern boundary below Coronet Peak Road. The remaining mature area of about 30 hectares of wilding Douglas fir, with an average age of about years, is on Coronet Peak Station, close to the north-eastern boundary of Mt Dewar Station. [56] Seeds from these forests not only lead to expansion on plantation edges but are also carried greater distances by wind. The prevailing wind is the North-Westerly. Mr Belton surmised that this wind will not transport seed on to the property from the mature southern forests, nor would it drop seeds from the northern. That said, we accept that some winds and some wind environments will bring problem seeds to the property from these locations (as did Dr Lloyd and Mr Belton). [57] Two of the primary local sources of windblown seed - a plantation in Long Gully, and a plantation on the Boyd land at the southern point of the MFL land - have prospects of being removed shortly. The Coronet Peak station has recently been sold to an overseas purchaser and the OIO approval to the sale contains a condition that the wilding tree and weed problems on the property, including the removal of the Long Gully plantation, be attended to in the near future. [58] This raises some questions about the implications arising from the complete removal of the Long Gully forest, and control of wildings on the surrounding areas, and the extent to which this would affect the rapidity of future spread over the mid and northern parts ofmt Dewar Station. [59] Dr Lloyd saw the likely pattern of wilding conifer establishment at Mt Dewar as: spread and infilling of wilding trees would occur most rapidly in areas adjacent to existing mature wilding trees, particularly the south and eastfacing tussock grassland faces above Coronet Peak Road and slopes in the lower part of Long Gully.

23 23 the south and east-facing slopes have thousands of wilding conifer seedlings and saplings, chiefly of Douglas fir, particularly in the southern part, that within 20 years will be producing abundant seed and infilling gaps. apart from Long Gully, the threat to the remainder of the site by wilding trees is not immediate, but over decades ongoing invasion and infilling would occur, resulting in a long term cover of dense coniferous forest. the Shotover Faces and high elevation slopes on the north side of Mt Dewar would likely be the most resistant to wilding conifer spread, and may not be fully covered by wilding conifers after 80 years. Ongoing control of wilding conifers in the Devils Creek Conservation Area by DOC would reduce and slow down, but not stop, the spread of the wilding conifers further along the Shotover Faces. [ 60] Mr Belton said that the principal wilding spread to date has been in the southerly quarter of the property, and he put this down to localised winds and swirling effects from topography. He said that the ground cover over most of the property's depleted tussock and scrubland provides favourable conditions for seed germination and minimal competition to establishment of wilding tree seedlings. Dr Lloyd also considered that evidence on the ground shows that winds from the southerly and southwesterly quarter are more important for wilding tree spread on the Mt Dewar property. (61] However, Mr Belton considered that long-term predictions of wilding spread rates are fraught with unce1iainties. For example, late spring frosts may kill all newly germinated seedlings, or conversely warmer and wetter conditions may accelerate spread. An increase in stock grazing pressure could significantly slow spread..,... '('~ _;:...--.::.:: (62] There is some difference however between the experts about the value of grazing as part of a wilding control strategy. Dr Lloyd, for instance, thinks that of;~ktensive grazing... does not appear to greatly limit wilding conifer spread. Of ~1'l~t\Jtsive grazing he says:

24 24 Wilding conifers are not an issue in productive pasture that experiences a high intensity of grazing. This is probably due to several factors, including competition with dense pasture swards dming establishment, relatively frequent cultivation, and grazing stock eating any small seedlings that do establish. Fenceline-related effects suggest that in some circumstances, grazing by sheep can be effective at reducing, if not eliminating, wilding tree spread in less productive contexts where grazing is locally intense. But he goes on to say that on Mt Dewar... intensive grazing would not be compatible with preservation of the existing indigenous biodiversity values. Mr Belton is clear that: Grazing continues to provide the most cost efficient method of preventing new infestations. Later, he says: Decreased grazing intensity is a mqjor factor behind increasing wilding spread. Another witness considered it to be only a suppressant. In any case it is far from clear as to what might happen to the land in the future, given it is no longer being grazed. [63] It is also Mr Belton's evidence that the cost of intensive wilding control has reduced by up to 75% from that of about five years ago, due to improved chemicals and techniques. He said he is aware that Mr James Cowan, the DOC Officer who is the Operations Manager for the Wakatipu Wilding Control Group (WCG), has been able to achieve a cost of $600 per ha for killing mature and dense stands of wilding Douglas fir and larch. In reading Mr Cowan's figures however, that cost may have been inadvertently overstated by Mr Belton. Mr Cowan says, at para 12 of his brief: DOC carries out wilding pine control on and off conservation land in the Queenstown area in cmuunction with landowners and the WCG. In the operational year to 30 June this amounted to a total spend of $628,000 and total area treated of approx lo,oooha. To date in the financial year, between DOC, WCG and landowner contributions, the total spend is approximately $600,000 and we will have treated a similar area. On our calculation, that works out at c$60 per ha, rather than $600 and, if that is so, then an extrapolated figure for year-one of an eradication programme on Mt Dewar Station would be ofthe order of $108,000. Mr Cowan described some of the wilding <".n1nm" operations he has been involved in, both with DOC alone and with the WCG, dl\'"''\ it is plain that significant operations continue, notwithstanding the constant s)tj~gle for funding.

25 25 [64] Importantly, Mr Belton was of the opinion that the greatest uncertainty hinges on the assumption that no wilding control might occur on Mt Dewar for the next l 00 years, given the high profile and visibility of the propetty, and the fact that almost 80% of the Mt Dewar Station boundaries are with DOC land and Coronet Peak Station where total wilding control is a high priority. [65] The Wakatipu Wilding Control Group's (WCG) founding Chairman is Mr Peter Willsman, and he describes its primary role as being exactly what its name suggests. It is, he says, entirely neutral about any development proposals on the Mt Dewar Station - its only interest is the removal and ongoing control of the wilding problem there. The group exists in response to recommendations made in a Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Strategy rep01t adopted by the Council in In 2011 it raised $260,000, including $127,000 from the Council, and was able to treat or spray some 4,300ha of infested land. (We note in passing that these figures also produce a cost of c$60 per ha.) In the 2012 year the income figure increased to $402,326. Mr Willsman describes an increasing level of public awareness and concern about the issue, and increasing willingness of public authorities and individual landowners to address it. [ 66] As we mentioned earlier, MFL participated in the scheme between and received funding and support from both DOC and the WCG. As part of this collaboration, management plans and strategies for the eradication and control of wildings are well documented. Significant results have been well publicised. Reversion has since occurred, but Mr Colin Day who has worked with MFL for a number of years, reports that much of the station is in good condition, particularly on the Shotover faces where there has been very little re-infestation. [67] Mr Willsman points out too that with the control work being done on nearby properties, Mt Dewar Station without a control programme has the potential to be the seed-source for reinfestation on surrounding lands. The District Plan has several objectives and policies, one of which specifically l!ll~tfe'~ to wilding trees. It reads: