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Help Protect the Maitai Valley from Urbanisation

Save the Maitai campaigners, including 13,000 supporters who signed a petition to retain the existing rural zoning, have been campaigning since 2020 to save Nelson’s beloved Maitai Valley. It is the city’s most popular rural recreation area and a proposed massive new suburb (about the size of 300 rugby fields) in the valley would seriously degrade the Maitai and surrounding areas.

In December 2021, over 700 written submissions were sent to a Resource Management Act (RMA) hearing, almost all opposing the proposed subdivision.   The campaign culminated in July 2022 when many people spoke with the RMA commissioners at the hearing.  Thank you to everyone who spoke or submitted. Together we made a very strong case to leave the valley rural and peaceful.

One of the big concerns was flooding and the recent floods (August 2022) have shown these concerns to be very real. The area planned for lower-value homes flooded, other land designated for housing slumped and more significantly, houses downstream in Nile Street were inundated. Additional floodwater that would come from the subdivision due to increased impermeable surfaces (roofs and roads) means this proposal must not go ahead.

Our experts, alongside most of Nelson City Council’s independent experts, presented evidence to the commissioners that the plan for a suburb in the Maitai Valley was seriously flawed and did not have adequate measures to protect the environment. 

Some highlights of the hearing are captured in the following video:



In some areas of major public concern, e.g. noise and traffic, earthworks, sediment and stormwater pollution, inadequate or no assessment at all was done by the developers of the effects of these activities on adjacent river recreation areas or nearby streets. 

At the hearing, we observed a permissive and developer-friendly approach from the commissioners, which was confirmed when they released their report and recommended to NCC that the plan change be approved. NCC voted to accept this recommendation, without scrutiny and regard for community opinion, effectively giving the green light to the subdivision.

Thanks to all of you who have donated, we have raised more than $120,000 that enabled our legal and environmental experts to present a thorough case to the commissioners. Your efforts brought about some major changes to the developers’ proposal. Nevertheless, it remains substandard and likely to cause a lot of irreversible environmental damage.

After taking legal and environmental engineering advice we have lodged an appeal to the Environment Court.

So here we are, at our very last chance to find a more natural future for the Maitai River and its adjoining areas. We are advised that the Environment Court is likely to require far more stringent conditions than have been applied by the RMA commissioners. However, the Environment Court begins the whole assessment process from scratch, having minimal regard to the commissioners recommendations. We are therefore having to fundraise again to employ environmental engineers and planners to give expert advice at the Environment Court.

This continues to be an expensive experience for our community. We know we are asking you to dig deep.  Please help by donating to keep the the Maitai Valley spacious and free from intensive urban sprawl, or at the very least, to lock the developers into the highest quality environmental outcomes possible so that the river and its peaceful surroundings can be enjoyed by the children of the future.

The Maitai needs your continued Support!

The best way you can support this campaign right now, is to donate – and every dollar helps!

Where else could new houses go in Nelson/Tasman?

(not including additional infill housing now allowed)

Impacts of housing expansion into the Maitai Valley

The proposed subdivision in the Maitai Valley is located in a prime recreation area and would negatively affect many people’s use and enjoyment of the valley and river in many ways:

Susan MacAskill

“I love the rural nature of the Maitahi Valley so close to central Nelson.”

Susan MacAskill, Campaign Supporter
Sophie Bisdee

“I really value having a quiet space, at the moment the spaces between the car noises are filled with birdsong but with increased cars you can’t hear anything but.”

Sophie Bisdee, Environmentalist
Ross Whitlock

“Running, walking, cycling, swimming. Some picnic, some just sit quietly in the shade or the sun. For many it is a place of renewal and peace. For me, as a landscape painter, this steep winding river valley with its constantly changing light is an endless inspiration. Every day that I walk it with Indy I find something new and wonderful.”

Ross Whitlock, Artist
Sophie Weenink

“I am very concerned that I will be amongst the last generation to enjoy the open spaces, peace and tranquility and beautiful natural landscapes of the Maitai Valley if the construction of many hundreds of houses goes ahead. I am deeply concerned about the impacts on the Maitai Valley and river. While more housing is needed there are many other options available in our area as identified in Council documents. I am the child of a single parent and of course we want affordable housing for us and others, but not this option which will wipe out one of the true highlights of our city.” 

Sophie Weenink, Environmentalist
Monica Pausina

“Nelson describes itself as “the smart little city.” So let’s BE smart! Let’s not follow Auckland’s disastrous model of urban sprawl. Let’s protect this much-loved rural paradise on the city’s doorstep that contributes so much to the uniquely wonderful quality of life here.”

Monica Pausina, Campaign Supporter
Grant Smithies

 “I love Nelson because there’s a gorgeous bit of rural recreational land close to the city. I spend each summer chucking myself into local swimming holes most evenings before tea. The river is my solace and my salvation, my chill-out zone, my happy place.”

Grant Smithies, Music Critic
Colleen Marshall

“The Maitai is my turangawaewae. I have swum in the river for 70 years and love walking Tino the dog along the pathways. It should remain a recreational playground for the people of Whakatu-Nelson. A subdivision would be a travesty.”

Colleen Marshall MNZM, Supporter
Maurice Gee

“Where else are people able to enjoy an unspoiled river valley so close to a busy little city? The Maitai is Nelson’s treasure” 

Maurice Gee, Author
Mark Hadlow

“We must protect this special, beautiful valley for future generations.”

Mark Hadlow ONZM, Actor
Rod Dixon

I grew up running, biking, swimming, picnicking and playing barefoot for hours in the Maitai. You can’t put a price on those childhood experiences. It’s exactly these sorts of simple joys that make us the envy of the world.

Rod Dixon, Olympic Medallist, Patron
Annette Milligan

When you climb the hills around Nelson, you see development in the valleys of Ngawhatu, York, the Brook, Todds and Marsden – they’ve already got housing. Can we not save this one last beautiful and treasured valley for recreation?”

Annette Milligan ONZM, STM Patron

Loss of rural amenity

The Maitai Valley is a beautiful unique green space close to town and accessible to all ages and abilities, to exercise and enjoy nature, full of walking trails, swimming holes and recreation reserves.

The Maitai Valley is too precious a resource to lose to a mass housing development. A new suburb in the Maitai Valley would no longer provide a peaceful escape from the urban environment.

Traffic and Safety Impacts

Maitai Valley Road and Nile Street as well as Collingwood, Brougham, Tasman, Milton and Bridge Street East would all become congested with much greater volumes of traffic (NZTA guidelines estimate thousands of vehicles per day).

It would affect safety, noise for residents and, passing schools, a creche, and NMIT.  The proposed Kaka Valley through-road would negatively affect residents in Atawhai, schools and a kindergarten.

Visually polluting

Hundreds of houses in the Maitai Valley would degrade the widely recognized scenic value of the valley.

Urban infrastructure would be likely to include traffic lights, footpaths, curb and channel, street-signs, and the addition of hundreds of houses to the area would permanently destroy the visual beauty of the area.

Urban Sprawl

The current proposal is for 750 houses at Kaka/Bayview, and there is a possibility of future subdivision at Orchard Flat. The Maitai Valley landscape would be irrevocably changed and the rural setting of multiple recreational areas and reserves would be ruined by becoming urbanised, spoiling the setting of the main swimming holes, picnic spots, cricket field and walking/running tracks.

The lower Maitai would become just another suburb of Nelson and the urban/rural divide would be pushed further up the valley.

Noise Pollution

The noise from 750 houses (e.g. vehicles, lawnmowers, stereos, leaf blowers, weed-eaters, chainsaws, powertools, cars, motorbikes) within the valley, on both sides of the river, would destroy the peaceful ambience of the valley and adversely affect recreational users.

Moreover, the noise and volume of earthworks machinery and ongoing construction may extend over 30-40 years according to the developers.

Wrong Place for Residential Zoning

Greenfield subdivision goes against Council’s own prioritisation of intensification. Nelson identified sufficient land for Residential development until 2039 without using the Maitai Valley.

In 2006 and again in 2019 Nelsonians said they preferred building up (intensification), not building out (greenfield expansion / urban sprawl). The valley base is a designated flood plain & climate change will exacerbate the risks of flooding, thus housing there could be subject to rising insurance costs.

Threat to wildlife

Kaka Valley is part of an 8km biodiversity corridor that runs from Nelson to Hira.

Domestic cats and dogs belonging to households in the proposed development would pose a threat to wildlife such as indigenous bird species, lizards, and aquatic species.

River Degradation

Stormwater would be directed into Dennes Hole a popular swimming spot.  The river would be subject to decades of sedimentation run-off, and permanently subjected to urban run-off.

Years and possibly decades of earthworks would mean a high likelihood of increased sedimentation into the Maitai River and downstream to Nelson Haven.

Air Pollution

Increased traffic would worsen air quality in the Maitai Valley and in the area extending down Nile Street into central Nelson.

Our latest Campaign Supporters - scroll through to see them all:

What is Save the Maitai?

Save the Maitai (STM) is a community campaign that aims to protect and preserve the Maitai Valley’s tranquil rural character for current and future generations. 

The campaign was formed in July 2020 to save the Maitai Valley from planned residential development of up to 842 houses in Kaka Valley and Orchard Flats. An incorporated society (Save the Maitai Incorporated) was later formed in preparation for legal challenges to residential development in the valley.

STM carries the voice of the very strong public opposition to subdivision in the Maitai Valley, which would permanently change the character of the valley from a quiet green space to a busy and noisy suburb. You can download the most recent figures proposed by NCC here. These would see even more houses built in the valley on both sides of the river – their draft 2022 Future Development Strategy proposes 200 at Orchard Flats, and 900 at Maitahi /Bayview (the proposed subdivision area)!

Once changed, it would be changed forever.


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