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Akaroa tourist attraction Giant House’s bid for cafe consent clocks six years

The Giant's House owner Josie Martin is hoping to get permission to create a more accessible entrance way and build a new cafe.

John Kirk-Anderson/Stuff

The Giant’s House owner Josie Martin is hoping to get permission to create a more accessible entrance way and build a new cafe.

For six years Josie Martin has been trying to expand her popular Akaroa tourist attraction – now the entire town can have a say.

In fact, anyone can.

The artist owns The Giant’s House, a unique mosaic garden in the seaside Banks Peninsula town, which before Covid-19 regularly attracted 30,000 visitors a year.

But some people have been unable to visit the garden because the entrance is via a steep driveway, which older people and those with mobility issues struggle to traverse.

“They take one look at the driveway and think ‘I can’t walk up there’ and they leave again,” Martin said.

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Six years ago, Martin’s are bought an adjoining property, so Martin could create a more accessible entrance and build a new cafe.

But before work can begin a resource consent is needed.

Martin first met with council staff in late 2016 and put in a consent application in 2018.

After a number of years going back and forth with Christchurch City Council, commissioner David Mountfort ordered in December 2020 that the consent be publicly notified.

I have believed 23 properties would be affected by the expansion.

By then Martin had already spent $97,000 and three years trying to get a consent. She did not want to say how much that figure had increased.

A proposed design of the new cafe building at Giant's House sculptural garden in Akaroa.

Supplied

A proposed design of the new cafe building at Giant’s House sculptural garden in Akaroa.

Public notification opened this week and now anyone can have their say on the expansion.

Mountfort was concerned about the loss of privacy for some residents and the traffic and visitor noise that could be generated.

He believed there was a realistic possibility of collisions between vehicles and pedestrians, which could result in significant injuries.

However, some tweaks have been made to the plan since then. Martin’s application, submitted by planners Davis Ogilvie & Partners, states the adverse effects of the proposal were acceptable and no more than minor.

The latest application said the proposal would have notable positive impacts.

“The proposal will increase the overall sensory experience of visitors to the site, whilst increasing the efficiency of on-site operations and providing a greater level of accessibility for all,” it said.

Josie Martin has spent 26 years developing her mosaic garden.

JULIET NICHOLAS/NZ GARDENER

Josie Martin has spent 26 years developing her mosaic garden.

”The Giant’s House is considered a significant tourist attraction within Akaroa and will continue to have economic benefits to the district.”

The cafe and entrance building would also require additional staff, creating more jobs in the town.

“The Giant’s House also contributes culturally and socially to the local community,” the application said.

Martin said the main point of the expansion was to provide better access, which has been an ongoing issue for a number of years.

NZ Gardener

Sculptor, painter and horticulturalist Josie Martin has created what she calls the happiest garden in the world, right here in New Zealand.

She hoped the application would receive support.

Martin started developing the attraction from scratch 26 years ago. It has been recognized by the New Zealand Garden Trust as a garden of international significance.

“I’ve run out of room at the top. I want to keep on creating the garden.”

People have until July 19 to make a submission on the expansion.

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