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Death of former Piha resident Owen McShane

Posted by SCe Comments Off on Death of former Piha resident Owen McShane

Longer-term residents of Piha will recognise the name of Owen McShane, who died on 6 March, as someone with a former link to Piha.

A planner by profession, McShane is best-known as a prolific writer to the media, lobbyist and critic of the Resource Management Act. His political position was as an advocate for “property rights” and arguing for less regulation.

At Piha he was on the Piha R&R in 1996, and, in his personal capacity, he successfully challenged the Waitakere District Plan on rules that controlled what property owners could do. For example, he succeeded in having rules that controlled the range of paint colours allowed on houses at Piha removed.

After a few years at Piha, he moved to Karekare, and thence to the Kaipara.

An internet search revealed an interesting connection between McShane and the 1997 Aman Resorts proposal at The Gap. This is a section from an obit McShane wrote about his friend Bryan Southcombe:

“So, Bryan thought, if the America’s Cup is the race, I’ll join it. He knew the New Zealand born architect, now living in France, who designed the top of the line Aman Resorts operated by Adrian Zeccha. Adrian wanted to build a resort in Auckland in time for the first defence of The Americas’ Cup. He regarded his client list as a club and wanted to be able to offer them suitable accommodation in New Zealand. The Auckland Aman would be the flagship but would be supported by maybe five of his second-tier, but still luxurious, hotels.

Bryan and I teamed up again, and we identified a splendid 105 acre site overlooking Piha Beach, and soon had interested parties in Waiwera, Taupo, Nelson and Queenstown.

Other countries line up to attract an Aman Resort because Adrian sets the standard for everyone else. His track record in restoring ecologies, nurturing endangered species, supporting local growers, and promoting indigenous art, meant that Governments worldwide make him welcome.

At first Waitakere City responded warmly. Adrian came down, saw the site and enthused, and when he met Mayor Harvey and his CEO all seemed to be going well.

But then the word got out that this resort was for the rich and famous, much to the distress of such simple-living folk as neighbour Sandra Coney and the Waitakere Ranges Protection Society. Locals were soon complaining that they didn’t want rich people looking down on their seaside slum. Evidently the impact of a thirty room resort was more than the environment could bear, even though scores of thousands of people visit Piha every summer. Rich people must have super-large feet.

I was preparing the resource consent application when the bomb finally fell. I received a call from Mayor Harvey saying that the resource consent would be jeopardized by my ongoing involvement and Adrian should hand the consulting work over to a more appropriate group closely associated with Council’s staff.

The list of consultants was long and expensive. Bryan received a letter explaining that they wanted the job but if they did not get it reserved the right to object. I stepped aside but Adrian was dismayed and his heart went out of the project.

Had he proposed a 400 room hostel for beneficiary back-packers it might well have flown through.

That was Bryan’s last attempt to bring a major project to New Zealand.”


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