Regional council says Ferry Hill earthworks compliant

by Lauren Pattemore - Feb 08, 2024

Some nearby residents have been appalled by what, according to one, is a "huge scar" appearing on Ferry Hill as a new track is being carved into the hillside, which is to be an Outstanding Natural Feature.

Council's response

Despite a community opinion that the earthworks don't look right - as evidenced by the numerous inquiries Crux has received about the works - the Otago Regional Council has responded that the work complies with its standards.

ORC compliance manager Tami Sargeant says staff assessed the site for its compliance with afforestation and earthworks under the rules of the National Environment Standard for Commercial Forestry (NES). It also complies with the ORC's regional plan for water.

A hillside previously untouched; earthworks visible from State Highway Six.

"ORC understands that QLDC is investigating whether the forestry activity is compliant with district council requirements," Ms Sargeant says.

Ms Sargeant says that the ORC will continue to monitor the site to ensure it complies. 

On the other hand, the Queenstown Lakes District Council is unwilling to comment as its own investigation is still ongoing, other than to disclose it has received "several complaints" about Ferry Hill.

Meanwhile work has continued at the site whilst the QLDC investigates, with diggers in operation on Wednesday. 

The QLDC is not prepared to disclose whether owner Ross Copland has resource consent for the work.

Mr Copland previously conducted earthworks to widen the farm track on Ferry Hill in 2020 without resource consent.

No stop work notices; diggers seen in operation on Wednesday.

Ross Copland and Ferry Hill

Crux understands the work is being undertaken by Mr Copland, who is also the chief executive of the New Zealand Infrastructure Commission.

Mr Copland undertook earthworks in May and June 2020 to extend a farm track on a lower area in Ferry Hill, until the Queenstown Lakes District Council intervened and asked for an assessment of the site by a geo-technician in July 2020.

This was completed by Ground Consulting Ltd, signed off by principal engineering geologist Peter Forrest.

The geo-tech report revealed Mr Copland's 2020 earthworks had created "drainage and slope instability issues" on Ferry Hill.

"A significant rain event caused a degree of erosion, siltation and deposition of silt/debris on the downslope of the farm track, spreading out across the open paddocks and running close to the open race of the Arrowtown Irrigation scheme in the southern section of the farm track," the Ground Consulting report says. 

"QLDC subsequently undertook further inspections on 24 July with GeoSolve, whereby they noted mobilisation of sediment towards the Arrow Irrigation Company race as a consequence of ‘modifications to the natural drainage paths’ through the recent earthworks."

Crux has made multiple attempts to contact Mr Copland to understand his side of the story and explain the 2023 earthworks. 

Significant alteration to the hill face.

Outstanding Natural Landscape

Some confusion arises as Ferry Hill has been defined by the Queenstown Lakes District Council as having "Outstanding Natural Features" in the operative district plan. 

This council document says there is very limited landscape capacity for earthworks of farms or public access tracks on Ferry Hill.

Tracks must protect the landscape's former glacial processes, and be sympathetically designed to integrate with existing natural landform patterns, the document outlines. 

Earthworks at a property on Ferry Hill are visible at a distance.

Under the QLDC's Outstanding Natural Landscape classification of Ferry Hill, its "distinctive cone-like peak" has been summarised as having a high physical, associative and perceptive value in the district. 

Its high visibility from Frankton, State Highway Six, and the airport's approach path, its importance to Kai Tāhu, and the naturalness of Ferry Hill have contributed to this classification.

Many local residents have expressed their confusion and shock at the works, with Crux contacted by a number in recent weeks concerned at what they are seeing.

Read more: Extensive earthworks on Queenstown hillside prompt investigation

Advertise with Crux Advertise with Crux