Neighbours want proposed $450m Dargaville racecourse development canned

Awakino Point opponents are calling for the proposed $450 million Dargaville Racecourse development to be canned.

They say the major new development – one of Kaipara’s biggest – will have at least half a dozen significant negative impacts that include the creation of a new satellite settlement separated from Dargaville services.

Grant McLeod, Awakino Point Ratepayers Group member, said the proposed new 450-dwelling settlement would suddenly bring about 1500 new residents into the middle of a currently mixed dairying, cropping and general farming area, 4km from Dargaville.

The opponents’ call comes as the Kaipara District Council (KDC) considers a $900,000 PGF-funded Private Plan Change application to rezone the site from rural to a development classification. Horses last raced on the 46.7ha former racecourse in 2016.

Awakino Point Ratepayers Group presented a 30-family petition against the private plan change to a recent online KDC council meeting. They want the council to turn down the application.

The application for mixed residential, neighbourhood centre, open space and light industrial use was jointly made by the Dargaville Racing Club, Dargaville Community Development Board and Te Runanga o Ngāti Whātua. It went to KDC on February 22. The council has until April 1 to decide on accepting or adopting the request.

Tracy Walters, representing Te Runanga o Ngāti Whātua, late last year told a KDC meeting the development offered a major opportunity for tangata whenua to be able to return to live in Northern Wairoa.

KDC Strategy, Policy and Governance Manager Michael Day said the council was working through the application to assess whether more information was required.

Day said public submissions would be part of the planning process around any potential proposal implementation if it was accepted by the council.

McLeod said opponents wanted to get in ahead of that time to ensure KDC was aware of their position whilst considering the application now.

McLeod said offering the land for public sale as four 12ha lifestyle blocks or leaving it as it is, a slightly larger-scale productive farming area, was the Awakino Point ratepayer group’s preference.

The 40 per cent-plus increase in Dargaville’s population that would potentially result would further strain the town’s water, power and sewerage infrastructure.

The volume of traffic in and out of the location onto an already-busy State Highway 14 would dramatically increase.

Traffic at the development’s designated SH14/Awakino Point North Rd main access would more than double to 2700 a day, compared with about 1000 at present, McLeod said.

“The current Awakino Point North Road State Highway 14 intersection is already dangerous.”

Developers have indicated a roundabout would be looked into for this junction.

McLeod said surface floodwater was not uncommon on the racecourse in winter.

Turning it into a residential and industrial settlement would bring major extra stormwater runoff.This would threaten lower-lying farms to the southeast of the racecourse as it drained into the Northern Wairoa River.

“The hard surfaces in the proposed development will massively change the characteristics of the stormwater runoff, especially during heavy rains,” McLeod said.

“This will create higher impact when the farms flood further downstream,” he said.

McLeod said opponents were also concerned about the risk of reverse sensitivity – where new residential property dwellers have to suddenly deal with the smells and sounds of a rural world they are not used to.

“Having high-density housing adjacent to working farms will be problematic with regard to general farming activities – noise from livestock, harvesting machinery, heavy trucks, firearms, tractors, motorbikes and aircraft. The smells from silage, effluent and agri-chemicals and dust,” McLeod said.

Developers have told KDC the racecourse development would include about 450 houses – 156 of these separate units in a retirement village. House lots will be as small as 400sq m, with a range of different living styles represented including larger residential blocks on some of the land and also papakainga housing. The average block size is 500sq m with some 4000sq m.

The proposed development would also mean the loss of an equestrian facility for the Silver Pine Pony Club which leased a site at the racecourse.

“We do not oppose development of the Dargaville racecourse site, but feel that the proposed 450-homes, including a retirement village, and light industrial activities is not best suited for this site.

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