By Laura Mills
Gloriavale Christian Community is set up to have more relaxed planning rules and its own sub-zone in the new combined district plan for the West Coast.
The community of more than 600 people is located on rural land on Lake Haupiri, east of Greymouth.
But with a high birth rate, it is expanding rapidly and developing plans for a second site it owns at Lake Brunner Station, on the remote western shore of the lake.
Community leaders told planners that the difference from the existing Gloriavale site was that residents would live in individual houses.
Planners reviewing the plans for the region’s three districts while working on the new Te Tai or Poutini Plan said they discussed the idea of creating a special-purpose zone, just for Gloriavale.
But they concluded that it did not meet the criteria of national planning standards and instead settled in a Gloriavale “compound”.
Under its current rural zoning, the community has to seek resource consent for its various industries and facilities, including a school, airstrip, food and honey processing, processing plant, engineering workshops, and hunting lodges, as well as deer and dairy farming.
Gloriavale also has its own water supply and sewer treatment plan. The planners also considered zoning it as a settlement, but decided against it.
“This is because they are not actually well located for a settlement and, apart from the school, the site does not have the infrastructure or design of the traditional settlement.”
Instead, turning it into a compound within the rural area would allow for residential and community buildings and still ensure council oversight of industrial activities and water services.
The planners also considered what would happen if Gloriavale were separated and had to abandon the sites.
“Having the sites divided into rural areas but with a community life area would be better than a settlement.
“If the community vacated the sites, the dormitory-style accommodation could become something of a backpackers’ hostel or an outdoor activity facility quite easily.”
“The proposal for a communal living compound in the rural area would cover the current and planned Gloriavale sites in Haupiri and Lake Brunner, planners said.
Buller Councilwoman Laura Coll McLaughlin said it was an unusual situation.
“We are allowing a group to establish its own city when we spend a lot of time planning these things. I don’t want to put obstacles in the way, but are we setting a precedent here or opening ourselves up to any responsibility for allowing that?”
Lead planner Lois Easton said the Gloriavale community appeared to be unique in New Zealand and was now larger than some existing municipalities, including the Franz Josef Glacier.
“But you’re right; the city council has not planned a city in that place … we usually have to plan where to put things, but these guys do it themselves; they are reasonably autonomous with their own infrastructure.”
Coll McLaughlin asked what would happen if another rural landowner decided to establish a community.
Easton said they would need a change of plan.
“Gloriavale started small and has grown gradually.”
The proposal for the new enclosure will appear in the draft of the Plan Te Tai o Poutini, which will be submitted for consultation early next year.
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