It took a while for Alf to find out why a multi-millionaire’s family has been denied approval to build two houses on their own property on Waiheke Island.
There’s a whiff of objections being raised just because the buggers are rich.
Objectors to the housing plans wailed about the mischief that would be done to some old bones on the property.
But the bones weren’t the undoing of the Spencers.
The Herald tells the story today:
Auckland’s secretive multimillionaire Spencer family have been banned from building two sleek new architect-designed houses on their $75 million Waiheke Island estate.
The Herald is no hurry to give the reasons. It goes on to say:
The publicity-shy Spencers, who are estimated to be worth $650 million, control an entire end of the island via their 1800ha cattle, sheep, wine and olive operations.
For three decades, they have dominated the unpopulated northeastern portion from Owhiti Bay to Man O’War Bay via their Man O’War Station with six houses, farm buildings, a rapidly expanding winery and 90,000 native trees which they planted.
Expert Environment Court witnesses said the station’s owners wanted to live in a new main dwelling “as the principal family base for the owners of the property when resident on the island”.
John Spencer’s son and heir, Berridge, directs the station company although ownership traces back to Clime Asset Management, the Spencers’ main business.
The houses were proposed for 725 Man O’War Bay Rd, listed on QV as an 802ha site worth $34.4 million: $31.95 million land and $2.49 million buildings.
Yep. But why can’t the Spencers build on their bit of land?
House-building and earthworks are non-complying activities for the dune site, the only change allowed being eco-sourced planting.
Six archaeologists, including one for Ngati Paoa Tribal Trust, were court-ordered into a caucus to agree on the land’s heritage values.
Evidence was presented of the area holding valuable objects such as moa and tuatara bones, fish hooks, obsidian flakes and chert drills.
Alf had never heard of obsidian flakes or chert drills, and hence could not get too excited about whether they were buried under two new houses or not.
He asked Mrs Grumble to do a bit of research, and she reported back that obsidian is a hard, dark, glasslike volcanic rock formed by the rapid solidification of lava without crystallization.
Wow. Does that make it more desirable from a heritage point of view than – say – a bit of sand?
Oh, and chert drills are implements made from a type of stone.
But as it turns out, the bones, stones and other bits of historical detritus didn’t bugger up the Spencers’ plans.
Rather, they fell afoul of two local authorities with two different sets of attitudes.
Auckland City had granted the station permission to build but the Auckland Regional Council opposed that in the Environment Court in hearings in April and May. The ARC said it was wrong to put such large houses on one of Waiheke’s few remaining undeveloped coasts when only 160 visitors a year would attend the wine marketing courses.
Allowing the houses would result in further developments.
Judge Laurie Newhook and two commissioners sided with the regional council and said more places would be developed in the unspoiled area if they allowed the Spencer proposal.
The effects of the house-building proposal on the heritage aspects of the property were “relatively neutral” and could be addressed by imposing conditions, the court decided. But it put more weight on the effects on the natural character of the coastland environment and its outstanding natural landscape.
The effects would be more than minor and there were adverse impacts on the environment from granting consent, the court ruled.
The Spencer family fortune, the way Alf remembers it, was built on the making of dunny paper.
Here’s hoping the architects drew up their plans on soft paper, because it seems they might just as well be put to the same use as the dunny paper.