Internal emails show QLDC shared concerns over Ferry Hill

by Lauren Pattemore - Mar 20, 2024

When significant earthworks began on Ferry Hill earlier this year, Queenstown Lakes District Council staff were just as concerned and in the dark as local residents. 

This came to light from an internal email with the subject 'Earthworks Concern: 2 Abbottswood Lane', which was recently obtained by Crux under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act.

Council's monitoring officer Alexia Elvin sent an email on January 16 to Otago Regional Council's compliance officer Tami Sargent asking for a site visit to be undertaken urgently.

"The earthworks themselves are very visual and of significant size. The most recent update we received from public is that spoil is now being pushed over, the earthwork cut has increased, and there are now a number of large trucks operating on the property," the email says.

"QLDC have serious concerns regarding the extent of the earthworks and their related environmental effects. The property directly borders an Outstanding Natural Landscape (Ferry Hill) and we have since received concern around dust kick-off from the property. 

"We are also concerned if there was to be a rain event, significant run-off would come off the property and directly flow into the Quail Rise area. 

"This concern has been mirrored in the community who are worried that their properties would be directly affected from these earthworks should a rain-event occur."

Ms Elvin ends the email confirming they are investigating the council's involvement, and asking if a site visit to be undertaken urgently. 

"We wanted to ensure that the above situation was on your radar given the likelihood of escalation."

Other emails between QLDC staff and ORC reveal that the QLDC had no pre-warning of the earthworks, and asked the regional council for a copy of the earthworks plan because owner Ross Copland would not send it to them. 

Mr Copland began these works on Ferry Hill on January 1, to the surprise of surrounding neighbours. However, internal emails between ORC staff and Mr Copland also obtained under LGOIMA show that Mr Copland alerted the regional council about the 'Ferry Hill Forest' plans on October 2, 2023 before work started.

In the document titled 'Ferry Hill Forest', Mr Copland details his plan to build 385 metres of a new road of five metre width, and 1.2 kilometre road which is three metres in width to facilitate the harvest of a 16 hectare forest.

Emails from Mr Copland from before the work began detail his plan to plant and harvest beech, eucalyptus, poplar, ribbonwood and pittosporum on the site.

After the works raised concern from the public, the ORC confirmed in early February the works were compliant under the National Environmental Standards for Commercial Forestry 2017. 

The QLDC is yet to confirm the outcome of its own investigation, telling Crux late last week it remains ongoing. 

When first reported on, Crux approached the council for comment on the controversial unfolding earthworks. However, council communications staff then declined to offer any comment on the situation, which Crux can now reveal they were very concerned about. 

Main image: Photo's of Ferry Hill earthworks in progress, captured on February 7, 2024.


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