JurisdictionNew Zealand
JudgeM Harland,M Oliver,H McConachy
Judgment Date03 May 2011
Neutral Citation[2011] NZEnvC 98
Docket Number(ENV-2009-CHC-133/134/135/136)
CourtEnvironment Court
Date03 May 2011

In the matter of an appeal under section 120 of the Resource Management Act 1991

Ayburn Farm Estates Limited & Ors
Queenstown-Lakes District Council
The Roman, Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Dunedin
David Clark
Lyman Goff
Graham Hazlett
Trish Hazlett
Phillip Hensman
Maureen Johnson
Peter Johnson
Brian Millard
Marilyn Palmer-Story
Hayley Stevenson
s274 Parties

[2011] NZEnvC 98


Environment Judge M Harland Environment Commissioner M Oliver Environment Commissioner H McConachy



Appeal under s120 Resource Management Act 1991 (right to appeal) — land use consent had been granted by the Queenstown-Lakes District Council to establish a subsidiary Catholic primary school for up to 112 pupils — the site had previously been occupied by a 20-room accommodation lodge that was destroyed by fire — the neighbourhood character and zoning was rural-residential — residential neighbours to the site were vehemently opposed to the proposal due to the proposed use of the land and the noise and disruption it entailed — whether land use consent for the proposed activity should be granted.


Mr M Parker for the appellants

Mr M Ray for the respondent

Mr R Ibbotson for the applicant

  • A. The appeals are dismissed.

  • B. The application for resource consent is granted subject to conditions being finalised by the Council as set out in paragraph [128 (a) — (f)] of this decision. This decision is final except to the extent of the wording of the conditions being finalised by the Council.

  • C. Costs are reserved.


Since 1883 St Josephs Primary School has been operating from a site in Melbourne Street, Queenstown next to the Catholic Church which gives it its name. Nowadays the school is fully integrated and provides a catholic education choice for parents of primary and intermediate age pupils from Years 1 to 8 who reside in the Wakatipu Basin. The school has outgrown its current site and its roll has been limited because of this. Over the last few years, the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Dunedin, who is responsible for the oversight of the school, has looked for an alternative site within the region upon which to site a satellite campus.


Early in 2006, what was thought to be a suitable site was found and the Bishop purchased a 2.5945 hectare property at 478 Speargrass Flat Road comprising land and Speargrass Flat Lodge. The Lodge had previously operated as a 20-room visitor accommodation facility and the Bishop's representatives began discussions with the immediate neighbours about converting the existing Lodge into a satellite campus for 60 pupils.


The Lodge was destroyed by fire in late July 2006. A new school facility was therefore designed for the site that proposed development in two stages culminating in a campus to accommodate up to 112 pupils. The application for resource consent for the redesigned proposal was publically notified on 22 October 2008 and attracted significant opposition from residents in the neighbourhood.


The Bishop sought and was granted land use consent by the Queenstown Lakes District Council (“the Council”) to establish a subsidiary primary school for up to 112 pupils on the site subject to conditions. 1 The Council Hearing Commissioners' decision recognised at the outset that it “had been a difficult application to determine,” 2 but having carefully reviewed the evidence and submissions they found that “the adverse effects have been exaggerated and bearing in mind the sort of environmental impacts of development in this zone anticipated by the District Plan, on balance consent should be granted.” 3 Some of the residents appealed that decision to this Court and most remain completely opposed to such an activity. The Council has continued to support its decision on appeal.


We must decide anew whether or not land use consent for the proposed activity should be granted or not.

The proposal

The land use consent sought is to establish a satellite campus (“the Speargrass campus”) at the site to be run in association with St Josephs School in Queenstown. Practically this would mean that St Josephs School would remain as one entity, but would operate from two sites, with the Speargrass campus remaining under the control of the St Josephs School Board of Trustees and the one school Principal. We were told that the Speargrass campus would provide for Years 1 —6 pupils 4 from the Arrowtown, Lake Hayes and outer Wakatipu basin area, with Year 1 —6 pupils

from Queenstown and all Year 7 —8 pupils 5 continuing to attend St Josephs School in Queenstown

Two buildings are proposed for the site: a 480m 2 classroom block that would be 5.2m high at its apex; and a 220m 2 administration block which would be 5.5m high at its apex. The buildings are designed to be sympathetic to the environment in terms of the external materials and colour palette. The design of the buildings was not challenged on appeal.


The school layout also includes a playing field, a hard-court area and a driveway and car park/bus turning area, with 43 car parks being provided and a specific “set down area” for buses to deliver children to and from the site. The proposal contemplates a number of children using bus transport, but the school itself does not intend to provide a separate bus service, rather it relies on accessing the bus service provided by the Ministry of Education. The playing field is located near to the road boundaries. The hard-court area was originally proposed to be some 18.5m from the western boundary adjacent to the classroom block, although during the hearing, at the suggestion of the Court an alternative layout was provided, which placed it nearer to the middle of the site next to the car park and playing field.


Planting, earth mounds and fences at various places around the site are proposed, in part, to mitigate any noise and visual effects.


The Speargrass campus proposal includes two buildings, to be established in two stages. Stage one involves the ‘classroom block’ building to provide three classrooms, a temporary office and staff facilities, for a maximum (in time) of 84 pupils and between 6 and 10 staff including a secretary, teacher aides and a cleaner. Initially the school roll will be small and it would increase over time. Stage two would involve constructing the second building: the ‘administration block’ to accommodate the library, offices, staffroom and support facilities. This would provide for up to 112 pupils and between 8-14 staff.


The Speargrass campus, like other primary schools, would operate during the school terms, with likely activity at the site between 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday and occasional activities in the evenings and at weekends. It would be closed for school and public holidays. There was no evidence to suggest that the proposed facility would be used for school holiday programmes.

The site in context

The site is effectively described in the respondent's decision 6 as being “within a strip of Rural/Residential zone covering the valley floor between Speargrass Flat Road and the Rural General zoned flank of Slope Hill”, which is behind it. The decision also notes that “this strip of Rural/Residential zoning adjoins the larger Rural/ Residential area north of Lake Hayes” and the site is considerably larger than other similarly zoned sites in the immediate area. The site fronts onto Speargrass Flat Road to the north and Slope Hill Road on its eastern boundary. Further down Slope Hill Road there is a left turn into Rutherford Road, which in turn leads down to Lake Hayes. To the east of the site some 1240m along Speargrass Flat Road is a T-intersection with Arrowtown/Lake Hayes Road, the main road between Queenstown and Arrowtown.


The site is relatively flat and is currently in pasture with a substantial cluster of established and mixed exotic deciduous trees at the southern end. A small watercourse runs through it. Before 2006, as we have said, there was a lodge for visitor accommodation on the site and this activity, in various shapes and forms had operated since 1981. The Council's records establish that in the late 1980s commercial activities were also undertaken from the site, namely retail sales from a flower barn on the property and serving Devonshire teas. At that time the site was zoned Rural A under the relevant District Plan, but it is now zoned Rural Residential with a Visitor Accommodation Overlay.


There are rural residential properties to both the east and west of the site, and this pattern of development extends to the east down Speargrass Flat Road to its intersection with Arrowtown/Lake Hayes Road. To the west of the site on the same side of Speargrass Flat Road, there is evidence of rural residential subdivision occurring, although fewer houses have been built upon these sections at this time. The land immediately opposite the site and to the west on Speargrass Flat Road is still zoned Rural General and is operated by Ayburn Farms Ltd as a farm.


Whilst more will be said of this later, the impression we have of the character of the immediate neighbourhood is that, apart from the Ayburn Farms property, it is, as the zoning suggests, predominantly rural-residential development. Many of the houses are visible from the road, and the use of earth mounding is evident as a landscape feature within and bordering some neighbouring properties.


A clear appreciation of the site in its context was gained from the aerial photograph produced in evidence (Exhibit 3).

The parties

The appellants and s274 parties opposing the proposal are all landowners and residents who live near to the site. It is important to outline some brief details about each of the parties in order to understand their respective...

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