Auckland property: Neighbourhood battle cost Remuera townhouse developer extra $500,000

A Remuera townhouse developer says a legal fight with neighbours added an extra $500,000 to the project “which would send most others broke”.

Kurt Gibbons of residential developer Gibbons Co had almost finished 13 new homes, sold for $1.1m-$1.4m each, when neighbours took him to the High Court in November and won.

That froze work for the past five months but on Friday Gibbons announced he had two new consents, which would allow builders to finish the places.

He plans to give buyers of homes on the 1600sq m site the keys in eight weeks – but remains annoyed about the holdups and cost escalation.

“It’s probably cost us about half a million dollars and it’s a complete waste of time and money and really unfortunate we’ve had to go through this.

“That would have sent most other people broke. This completely complies with the Auckland Unitary Plan,” he said referring to height, coverage, density, traffic, vehicles, landscaping.

To win the right to finish the development, Gibbons has been forced to lodge two new applications with the council: one for non-notified consent decided by independent hearing commissioners and one land use consent.

Consultant, legal fees, changes to the places and other costs had added $500,000 to the project. To win, louvres will be added over windows for privacy and further landscaping will be carried out to a greater height at the back of the townhouses where they front onto the home of Bayleys agents Gary and Vicki Wallace.

“The irony is that in the latest changes, I wouldn’t have to include the 13 car parks,” he said referring to parking bays outside each townhouse.

Gibbons also complained about neighbours parking vehicles long-term near the site, which made it impossible for trucks carrying building materials to turn and gain entry. Instead, the trucks were forced to unload on the street, Gibbons complained.

“Petty, isn’t it?” he asked.

One person in the area acknowledged around 14 vehicles were parked for some time from early last year near the site.

But he said that was completely legal because it was a public road.

The vehicles were brought to the street and left there to prove that neighbours to the townhouse project would be affected in a way less than “minor” – the wording of the Resource Management Act that allowed Gibbons’ plans to be consented non-notified.

The vehicles were used to give the developer a taste of his own medicine, the local said: to demonstrate how difficult life would be for neighbours once all 13 townhouses were fully occupied with not just one car per place but two to three for each townhouse.

Gibbons complained a large truck parked long-term opposite the site made it impossible for his trucks to turn onto his land. That move was vindictive, he said.

New homes were needed in that area.

A teacher, existing residents wanting to downsize, people who grew up in the area wanting to remain and landlords had bought, Gibbons said.

Around 70 per cent of the townhouses were pre-sold to owner-occupiers.

Buyers Tim McGoldrick and Henri Yeoman run developer Blackcomb. They paid deposits for neighbouring townhouses at the scheme, agreeing to settle on completion.

They had intended to live there, Yeoman said. But because of Covid and circumstances changing, they decided to sell both places before completion.

One had sold but another was still for sale, Yeoman said. Blackcomb is itself developing 16 townhouses at Kumeū.

In November, Justice Gerard van Bohemen allowed an appeal against Auckland Council’s resource consent for the townhouses, which stopped work.

Retired resource management lawyer Richard Brabant and wife Eleanor, commercial developer David Pederson and wife Tracy, Bayleys agents Vicki and Gary Wallace and Jason and Lesley Orr challenged the council’s non-notification and resource consent.

“The council did not turn its mind to the effects of building intensity on neighbourhood character and residential amenity,” the judge ruled then.

But independent hearing commissioners last month said the consent should be non-notified and the council last week granted a land use consent.

That allowed Gibbons to get builders back on site Monday.

Brabant said this week that after last November’s High Court decision, Gibbons and the council had lodged an appeal with the Court of Appeal. The neighbours had filed a cross-appeal.

“The developer and the council have appealed the decision and at the same time, the developer lodged a fresh application,” he said.

The neighbours were awaiting legal advice from their barrister Martin Williams about the non-notification decision and the decision granting consent and whether there were errors in it, Brabant said.

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