AN air training school could bring in $26 million a year to the Gisborne economy, a special hearings panel was told yesterday.
Eastland Group chief executive Matt Todd spoke in support of a private plan change sought by Citrus Grove Investments to change the zoning of land at Makaraka to industrial A, and a new aviation commercial zone that would allow the school to be based near the airport.
A submitter opposing the change, Ricky Daggar, said he did not trust Gisborne District Council and accused it of having an ulterior motive for the plan change.
Mr Todd said Eastland Group, which leases the airport, strongly supported the application and the establishment of a training school.
Having 200 students would bring in $26 million a year to the Gisborne economy, he said.
This would be money spent in the community.
In eight years the air training school at Hamilton International Airport had brought $280 million into the local economy and the same could happen here.
Gisborne was well suited for a training school site because much of the flying could be done over the sea and the airport was not subject to fog like some on the west coast.
Citrus Grove managing director David Meban said at the time of the previous application, he had a number of conditional agreements to buy land.
These had now lapsed but he had talked to some of these prospective buyers who had not been able to buy land elsewhere.
Projects involved included activities like parking and washing logging vehicles, and a waste treatment operation including a transfer station.
Having geotechnical investigations and flood mitigation plans at an advanced state meant developments that would otherwise require significant lead-in time could proceed in a relatively short time, Mr Meban said.
But Mr Daggar, who leases land in the area, said he had the benefit of hindsight and did not believe or trust the council at all.
He had been at three Environment Court hearings and the council always did what it wanted, not what it said.
“I am very distrustful of the council and I have good reason to be.”
The fact the council had agreed with the developer meant it was just going down the same line as the three previous cases.
It did not make any sense for the council to agree more industrial land was needed when it knew there was a huge amount of land available — 425 hectares.
“This is my evidence. This shows the council has an ulterior motive for granting this development,” said Mr Daggar.
The council was going against its district plan, which was to protect versatile soils. Another 18.5 hectares on top of the 425 was just ridiculous to say the least.
“We are a farming town, not an industrial giant.”
The loss of quality soils would have an effect on LeaderBrand. Why should LeaderBrand, which employed hundreds of people, be affected when there was plenty of industrial land available?
He questioned why Citrus Grove should be allowed to build up their site in a low-lying area that would affect the neighbours.
The council would not get his property, Rapanui Farms, unless it took it under the Public Works Act and it would lose if it went to the Environment Court.
This was the only real spanner in the works the council and Citrus Grove had.
“I have come to the conclusion as to the real reason the council wants this development — rates money, of course,” he said.
It would get more from a large development than bare land.