29 Aug 2014

Wingatui residents fear 'McMansions'

7:33 pm on 29 August 2014

People living opposite Dunedin's Wingatui racecourse say its subdivision will wreck their views with a row of "beige McMansions".

Residents lined up today at a resource consent hearing to criticise the Otago Racing Club's plans to carve off 11 sections for housing.

Otago Racing Club chief executive Andre Klein speaks at the Wingatui racecourse subdivision hearing.

Otago Racing Club chief executive Andre Klein speaks at the Wingatui racecourse subdivision hearing. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

The club says it needs the money to turn itself into the South Island's main horse training centre. Today's hearing heard many arguments - but in the end they boiled down to this: What is a rural view worth?

Mike McNulty lives right across the road from the racecourse - and there is no mistaking what a row of houses on its boundary would do for him.

"Our house is an old 1900s villa that was shifted there approximately 20 years ago and it was completely rebuilt to the north-west aspect, so our lounge, dining, kitchen, outdoor living flow looked directly out through that vista we get right across the racecourse to the hills beyond.

"We're approximately 20 metres back from the road and so that would put us about 40 metres away from these houses that are going to be built, and that will give us absolutely no view whatsoever."

Nearby is Caroline Hunter, who says the council has zoned the two hectares the racing club wants to sell as rural land and it should stay that way.

"We did do some research before we bought our house like other people and we were comforted by the fact that we were overlooking a rural zone and that definitely was an attraction.

"And the thought of looking out on what we think could be a row of beige McMansions just really doesn't appeal."

Club wants funds for training centre

The Otago Racing Club gave three hours of submissions, saying ironically its plans originate in the spread of housing from nearby Mosgiel that has pushed up the costs for horse trainers, who now want to house their horses at the racecourse.

The club wants to embrace that idea and develop a South Island training centre of excellence. A veteran trainer there, Brian Anderton, says the subdivision could make Wingatui's future.

"If it goes ahead like we think, we don't want 12 trainers here - we want 24. We're going to have to accommodate them ... If we're fortunate enough to be able to sell some sections, we'll have some money where we can establish training facilities."

But Peter Wilson from the Wingatui Community Hall Society says it is all a fanciful dream.

"The trainers simply don't exist. This industry needs to face up to the challenges that it's got - not by rezoning the land that surrounds the racecourse to residential, to carve up and put money in where it's not required - but to face up to the real challenges of what it's facing."

Today the council's planner recommended that the subdivision be turned down, saying it is a ribbon-strip development that fails Resource Management Act tests and will degrade the rural environment.

But a planning consultant for the racing club, Alan Cubitt, says it is more like infill housing, because the racecourse is already at the heart of a village.

"This site can't be compared to just any rural property at the edge of a township. You can't compare it to a working farm, you can't compare it to any of the other racetracks in the area, so the site is clearly a true exception."

The hearing panel will next visit the racecourse and hear closing arguments. A decision is expected within two months.