Proposed changes to zoning rules in the Mackenzie borough have angered some residents, with golfers in particular angry about the prospect of losing a top-class course.
As part of Phase II of its district plan review, Mackenzie District Council is altering the implementation sections of the spatial and light plans, including a proposal to rezoning them as “commercial visitor accommodation areas” in Takapi/Tekapo, Twizel and Fairleigh.
Information on the council’s website describes the designation as applying “to residential areas of Fairlie, Takapō/Tekapo, and Twizel that have been located as suitable for high-density commercial visitor accommodation, such as hotels and motels.”
But the president of the Twizel Residents and Payers Association, Tony Weeks, said the perceived lack of consultation with the community seemed symbolic of the broader issues.
* An international standard 18-hole golf course has been proposed for Waimate
* The rapid rise of disc golf shows no sign of slowing down in New Zealand
* The upcoming 18-hole golf course, Timuca, hopes to give the region a boost
* An earthquake-damaged golf course left idle for nine years has reopened for disc golf
“The feeling at Twizel from the people I talk to is that we’re getting a raw deal. We’re the largest rate payer base in the area, but all the focus seems to be on Fairlie and Tekapo.”
Wikeez had received an invitation to a workshop council convened around the plan changes, which he understood was being extended to select people, but in the past there have been opportunities to consult more widely through convened sessions, he said.
“So some people are upset about this process and feel that the board hasn’t really lived up to its obligations in terms of the advisory.”
It was also difficult to understand why the public notice of the submission period was placed in Timaru’s paper and not in the local Twizel newsletter, he said.
Weekes said that communication with the council has been “a constant issue since the formation of the Taxpayers’ Association, and we’ve kind of had to pull information from them.”
But a spokesman for Mackenzie County Council said the information was “made widely public”, including letters sent to all pedigree payers in the council’s database.
They said the council was not considering extending the application period, which was 40 days “twice the legal requirement”.
The Board recognizes that the rezoning will affect the Twizel disc golf course, but has no position on whether the loss of the course’s Professional Disc Golf Association accreditation will be offset by more tourist accommodation.
“The board has proposed a change of plan that seeks to implement on a large scale the spatial plans developed and finalized last year. After closing submissions and then additional submissions, there is an opportunity to view all submissions and make any recommendations to the hearing panel.
“The council understands that in any such process there will be support for and against a motion,” said the council’s spokesman.
The TRA also had concerns about aspects of the meso-zoning proposed by the council, such as the height limit for buildings being raised to a height of 10 to 11 metres.
“It seems like an exaggeration for the town of Twizel. It’s cold in winter here, and a lot of the surrounding buildings will lose sunlight and views of the mountains and mountain ranges. We wonder if a medium-density area is needed here.”
He recognized that development could be difficult to manage given the city’s projected growth, and that the loss of some green space was “inevitable”, but that it had to be done in a “real consultative way”.
Meanwhile, the potential loss of a popular recreational and competitive facility as a result of the changes infuriates golf aficionados.
Disc Golf Twizel president Eddie Stead said the strip of a no-build zone between Dobson Place and Ruataniwha Road that will be rezoned for motels and lodging under the plan will obstruct the Twizel disc golf course.
Steed said the course would lose three holes when part of the land on it is converted into a commercial visitor accommodation area under the proposed change.
He said that the Organization had had no communication from the Board regarding the proposed changes or the potential impact on the session.
The course – “arguably one of New Zealand’s first disc golf courses” – was originally laid out in 2000, and later upgraded to a “full competitive disc golf course” in 2018, Stead says.
The course forms part of the New Zealand Disc Golf Association’s Tour competition, which Stead believes would be lost if the proposed ground were lost.
“You’re going to be hard pressed to find three more holes on the course,” Steed said, and such a change would turn what is classified as a PGDA-recognized competition course into a “new disc golf course”.
Steed said the Meridian Community Fund gave the group $20,000 for the 2018 upgrade, with Disc Golf Twizel making up another $8,000, an amount that does not include labor.
He said the group had sought and obtained council approval for the 2018 expansion, and [former] Mayor Mackenzie Graham Smith cut the ribbon at the launch.
It has been approved by [the] Mackenzie County Council at that time as a community benefit for recreational purposes.
He said golf was seeing an “enormous” rise in popularity.
“There are courses being built all over the country at a rapid rate of decade.”
Disc golf courses, he said, are “recognized throughout the world as a good use of land that would not otherwise be used for recreational purposes”.
Events bring visitors—and revenue—to the city.
Twizel’s last two golf tours have broken the record for the number of competitors in a New Zealand disc golf competition.
“Most competitors… come from out of town, and they bring at least one person for support. A lot of them bring the whole family with them to the three-day competition. I would take a stab at saying that if we had 100 competitors, at least 200 would come.” to town for two or three days, and a lodging of at least two nights, and three evening meals, and all the advantages you bring to the table.”
He said moving the track to an alternate location would be difficult given the level of infrastructure that would need to be changed.
Although there are no firm figures on the number of people using the course, given its location, accessibility, and lack of cost, the numbers were sure to be high, especially over the holiday period.
“They can be serious golfers, recreational players or beginners. It’s so popular with families you’ll often see moms and dads pushing strollers around playing golf.
“It is one of the rare disc golf courses to be found in an urban area. Most of the golf courses in New Zealand are in rural areas which you have to drive to, while the Twizel disc golf course which you can walk to, is on the greenbelt which also makes it very popular with Vacationers. And you know how much it costs? Nothing.”
Disc Golf Twizel committee member Paul Hanagan said he was surprised the club had not been contacted about the changes, given its longstanding relationship with the council.
He was aware of dozens of golf participants, community members, and golf clubs nationwide who came in about a 24-hour period.
Aside from the course loss, Hanagan said he’s upset about the proposed loss of green space, especially considering “Twizel is built on the idea of green space,” which residents are very proud of.
He said the previous councils had “bought land and demolished houses to bring a boulevard-style green road into the city”.