An appeal over landscape protection on Man O’ War Station could set a precedent in New Zealand. Photo Ian Burrows

A Court of Appeal hearing over a land protection designation on Man O’ War Station could have national significance.
Waiheke Local Board granted $3000 to the Environmental Defence Society to cover the costs for lawyer Rob Enright who is working for free representing the society in the case.
On Wednesday last week the Court of Appeal in Wellington heard Man O’ War Station’s appeal against an outstanding natural landscape classification over 1925 hectares of land at the eastern end of Waiheke (above).
Auckland Council is arguing that the designation, which protects the land from inappropriate development, should remain on the land and the Environmental Defence Society (EDS) is supporting this position.
EDS chief executive Gary Taylor says the society applied to join the case because it is important for Waiheke’s remote natural landscapes to be protected and because the case could set a precedent for the rest of coastal New Zealand.
If the appeal is successful the criteria for outstanding natural landscapes could be pushed so high that it is “unlikely that Auckland’s or Waiheke’s landscapes would qualify”.
“What this proceeding is trying to do is change the test for what is an outstanding natural landscape and make it harder to be one.
“We want the test to remain the same
“It’s a matter of national importance that outstanding natural landscapes are protected,” he says.
In areas with an outstanding natural landscape zoning the features that make a landscape outstanding cannot be adversely affected so it provides “quite a strong level of protection” against inappropriate development, says Mr Taylor.
Mr Enright also represented the EDS in a Supreme Court case against King Salmon which established that adverse effects on outstanding landscapes must be avoided.
The Court of Appeal hearing follows the High Court rejecting Man O’ War Station’s appeal in April 2015 over the outstanding natural landscape classification covering more than 75% of its 2364 hectare property.
The High Court upheld a 2014 Environment Court decision which rejected the landowner’s submission that only coastal and specific inland areas should be covered by the classification.
The property owners argued that the land had been “so heavily developed that it cannot properly be described as ‘natural’ ”.
Man O’ War stated that the land was a “fairly normal rural landscape” rather than an “outstanding natural landscape”.
The Environment Court stated “it became obvious to us that [Man O’ War’s] property on Waiheke Island offered a mosaic of landscape features including the bush clad eastern slopes of the Puke range, an interspersed network of bush gullies, pastureland, vineyards, and geological features, flanked by a series of coastal headlands, escarpments and ridges leading out to the waters of the Hauraki Gulf.
“These features interact in a manner that, viewed from either land or sea, makes it difficult to identify separate landscapes for assessment of significance … we do not find it appropriate to separate the coastal and inland landscape.”
Man O’ War Station is owned by the Spencer family and stretches from Owhiti Bay around the coast to Man O’ War Bay and is used for wine and olive growing and for other rural purposes.
The Court of Appeal decision on the Man O’ War Station classification is expected within the next six months.
Man O’ War Station has gained consent to build two houses on the land, despite the outstanding natural landscape designation.
In December 2014, the Environment Court granted resource consent for amended plans for a 193 square metre house about 40 metres from the beach at Owhiti Bay. Auckland Council has now granted building consent for the Owhiti Bay house.
After drawn out legal battles Man O’ War Station also won resource consent to build a house at Cactus Bay with a floor area of 181 square metres and a roof area of 356 square metres.
The Cactus Bay house will also be at least 40 metres from the beach.
Donations to support the Environmental Defence Society can be made by visiting • Rose Davis

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