Red Helicopter against a blue sky. Isaac benhesed / Unsplashed

Bid to Ban Chopper Pads Across Much of Gulf Islands

Helipads in Auckland Councillor’s Crosshairs: A Move to Ban Them in Residential Areas

Photo / Isaac Benhesed / Unsplash

Auckland councillor, Mike Lee, is spearheading an effort to eradicate private helipads from residential neighborhoods across the Hauraki Gulf Islands, including Aotea Great Barrier, in response to escalating public outcry. A letter seen by AoteaGBI.news reveals Lee plans to table the crackdown at the Planning Environment and Parks Committee meeting on March 14, 2024.

Highlighting the thrust of his argument, Lee states, “the adverse effects of helipads and the helicopter movements they enable are just as adverse in residential areas on Great Barrier and Waiheke as they are in the suburbs of the city.”

The challenge is reinforced by unanimous support from the Aotea GBI, Waitematā and Waiheke Local Boards.

The reform Lee proposes seeks to redefine private helipads within residential zones as ‘prohibited activities’, underpinned by Section 87A (6) of the Resource Management Act (1991). “This will propose both a modification to the HG District Plan and a change to the Auckland Unitary Plan,” Lee asserts, aiming to mitigate the disruptive impact of helicopter noise, safety concerns, and community division linked to the increasing number of helipads.

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Addressing specifics, Lee says that on Aotea / Great Barrier Island, the ban would predominantly apply to Settlement Areas as outlined under the Great Barrier Strategic Management Area in the Hauraki Gulf Islands section of the unitary plan, with Waiheke Island focusing on Residential Areas. Additionally, the motion suggests adapting the activity status for helipads outside residential zones to ‘non-complying’.

Lee’s motion comes amid growing concerns over the environmental and social repercussions of helicopter activity. In the past 16 months, 10 helipad applications have been approved, with several more filed.

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Pa Beach Cafe, 82 Blackwell Drive, Tryphena, Great Barrier Island (Aotea)

A contentious proposal for Rosalie Bay Road, near Mulberry Grove has recently ignited further debate, with divisions in the community on if it should go ahead.

In the letter Lee criticizes the council’s pace in dealing with the chopper issue, after it disclosed in a memo that it was hoping to delay discussions till the Hauraki Gulf Islands District Plan was integrated into the Auckland Unitary Plan.

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Pa Beach Cafe, 82 Blackwell Drive, Tryphena, Great Barrier Island (Aotea)

“The memorandum indicated management’s preference not to prioritize this work for two more financial years to coincide with council intentions to integrate the Hauraki Gulf Islands District Plan with the Auckland Unitary Plan,” Lee says.

A delay is diametrically opposed to the immediate concerns raised by residents and local boards since at least 2021, according to the councillor.

When tabled, the motion will prompt a discussion and vote by the Planning Environment and Parks Committee. Should the committee approve the motion, it initiates a formal process to amend Auckland’s Unitary Plan and the Hauraki Gulf Islands District Plan, including public consultation and regulatory adjustments to classify private helipads in residential areas as prohibited.

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