Waiheke Island helicopter landing pad application: Locals urge rejection

A new application has been made to establish yet another helicopter landing pad on Waiheke Island but locals say the existing 48 are more than enough.

In the winter, CHS Vineyard, which owns and operates the Obsidian vineyard between Palm Beach and Onetangi, applied to build a helipad to fly in visitors and tourists. A decision is yet to be released on that.

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Now, British-based Michelle Bartlett has sought Auckland Council consent for a landing pad at the 5.7ha property she is listed as owning at 345 Gordons Rd between Kauaroa Bay and Kaikuku Bay on a peninsula looking across to Maraetai.

Wendy Baverstock of planners Isle Land lodged the application for the helicopter landing and take-off platform, saying the site is on the southern shores on an area of land separating Rocky Bay from Awaawaroa Bay, on a rocky coastal headland area with Kauaroa Bay around 400m to the west across a neighbouring farm and near Kaikuku and Woodside bays.

The land is 600m from the Whakanewha Regional Park and Baverstock referred to it as “a comparatively remote rural site”. No disturbance of land was proposed or any earthworks. No buildings would be erected. There was no known cultural or heritage features on or near the site. Traffic generation would not be materially affected.

Marshall Day Acoustic Consultants’ report said the helipad could be operated to ensure that a reasonable noise level was maintained for neighbours.

Other landing pads had consents in the area including at 511 Gordons Rd and 621 Gordons Rd where four movements a day are allowed.

American billionaire Julien Robertson’s 341 Gordons Rd had 12 helicopter movements a day permitted. Movements are also permitted from the nearby 205 Awaawaroa Rd, the application noted.

Twelve single-engine helicopter flights over a rolling three-day period or a maximum of eight movements in a single day period are proposed at Bartlett’s place.

Her place has a modern six-bedroom main dwelling on a ridgeline and a three-bedroom visitor building, Baverstock said.

Mike Sweeney of Quiet Sky Waiheke said his group had asked Auckland Council to rejectBartlett’s application.

Quiet Sky Waiheke submitted a memorandum from planner Nichole Bremner that argued the planning process which allowed the existing 48 helipads on the island was invalid.

Local Gerda Gorgner of Quiet Sky Waiheke said a few months ago: “Nowhere else in New Zealand are so many helipads in such a small area. Some landing sites don’t have helipads, so we don’t even know the exact number of flight movements We feel like extras in Apocalypse Now.”

Quiet Sky Waiheke asked the council’s planning team leader Brad Allen not to allow Bartlett’s application, saying helipads were a non-complying land use and urging the council to use its discretion to deny it.

It cited the Waiheke Local Board’s position and a petition signed by 1368 residents asking the council to “stop permitting more helipads”.

Quiet Sky Waiheke said: “With 48 existing helipads on Waiheke, the cumulative impacts on safety and noise are already intolerable. The addition of any helicopter traffic is therefore unacceptable.

“The cumulative impact problem is particularly evident for the Michelle Bartlett application because the proposed helipad would be near four existing helipads: 341 Gordons Rd, 511 Gordons Rd, 621 Gordons Rd and 205 Awaawaroa Rd.

“One of these – the neighbouring site at 341 Gordons Rd – is a registered aerodrome. The Michelle Bartlett helipad would also lie close to the approach and departure paths of Waiheke’s airfield/aerodrome at 171 Carsons Rd, creating potential conflict with both fixed-wing and helicopter traffic, especially when pilots choose the northerly approach or departure path described in the application,” Quiet Sky Waiheke said.

“The Michelle Bartlett helipad would be only 600 metres away from the Whakanewha Regional Park, which is an important bird sanctuary that has been established at great expense and effort by the former Regional Council and the Waiheke Community. Helicopter noise is known to be a major threat to bird life. It would be unconscionable to harm this sanctuary by increasing the impact of helicopter noise,” the group wrote.

A request to contact Bartlett was sent from the Herald via Isle Land.

But Baverstock said Bartlett lived in Britain and there was a time difference. Bartlett is an expat New Zealander who works as a company director in London, records show.

In March, Sotheby’s International Realty advertised 345 Gordons Rd, saying: “Anchored to prime headland and circumferenced by coastal awe, this handsome residence leaves us utterly bereft of any comparison.”

Auckland Council lists the property as being valued at $6.1m for rating purposes.

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