Arrowtown’s Olive Leaf Centre project consent rejected

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by PETER OWENS

There has been disappointment registered by a large number of Central Otago people, not all of whom are Catholic, by the refusal of an application for a resource consent for a parish and community centre at Arrowtown. The decision to turn down a resource consent application from related to the Olive Tree Centre Trust at Arrowtown for a multipurpose parish and community centre on land beside the historic St Patrick’s Church was made by independent commissioners, appointed by the Queenstown Lakes District Council.

Olive Leaf Centre Trust chairman Colin Bellett said its members were surprised by the decision of the independent commissioners, Lee Beattie and Jane Sinclair of Auckland, released on December 1, to reject their proposal. The trust has 15 days from the release of the decision to appeal the decision by the commissioners. He said it was a disappointment, not only for the supporters of the trust, but also for the local people.

However, the decision has been welcomed by members of the NoLeaf Society, who said they were “very relieved” after four years of fighting the proposal. The NoLeaf Incorporated Society was formed to object to the proposals.

The Gaudi-inspired building was designed by Lake Hayes architect and St Patrick’s church parishioner, Fred van Brandenburg. Its name derived from its floating, leaf-shaped roof. The proposed centre has divided opinion within and outside the township since it was publicly notified more than two years ago.

The decision of the commissioners runs to more than 100 pages. In their decision, the commissioners say the project’s design was “remarkable”, but its scale, form and layout were inappropriate for the site and streetscape. They concluded the cumulative effects on the church and its setting would be more than minor, because the “simple, aesthetic, open landmark qualities” of the site would be significantly modified.

They also recorded that, in their opinion, while the proposal would have positive effects for the church’s congregation and for the community, they would not outweigh its adverse effects. The two commissioners also pointed out that the proposal was also contrary to key objectives and policies of the Queenstown Lakes District Council’s operative and proposed district plans, breaching standards relating to building bulk and location, noise, earthworks, car parking and landscaping.

In a prepared statement, NoLeaf Incorporated Society, said its members were relieved by what they hoped would be the conclusion to a “particularly long process”. The statement also states “The Arrowtown community has spoken and the commissioners have heard their concerns about the ongoing protection of the historic management zone”.

The proposal attracted 368 submissions — 218 in support and 150 opposed — and was the subject of three-day resource consent hearing in September. In a report for the commissioners, a council planner recommended consent be refused. Had it been approved, the trust’s members planned to fund its construction with donations. Some residents claimed that a community centre being built next to an historic church could set a precedent for Arrowtown’s character to be “whittled away”.

The proposed stone-clad building, which would have had an olive-leaf shaped roof, was planned to be a “low-level” structure, and would be surrounded by a series of stone walls. Designed to be a “taonga of our time”, the development would have featured Maori motifs in mosaics on stone walls and a glass koru motif. The Dunedin Catholic diocese had supported the proposal.

Mr van Brandenberg said he is disappointed at the decision by the commissioners, and hopes that, with more support from a wider area, the project will ultimately proceed.

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