A decision whether the Nature Preservation Trust can build a proposed$20 million, mostly subterranean home, is expected in mid June.

Arguments for and against the proposal were presented to independent resource consent commissioners Bob Nixon and Jane Sinclair last week.

The trust’s lawyers have until tomorrow to file a written right of reply and Ms Nixon said the decision should be completed 15 working days after receiving that document.

The key issues are whether the scale of the earthworks and the above-ground portion of the 2008sqm building meet new “reasonably difficult to see”criteria set out in the Queenstown Lakes District Council’s proposed district plan, which comes into effect in June.

The trust’s house is intended to replace an other mansion built on the site in the late 1990s
by the late aviation identity Ray Hanna, which the applicants lawyer Josh Leckie said was legally consented at the time but would probably fall foul of the new criteria now.

The commissioners frequently drew witnesses’ attention to a simulated viewpoint of the proposal from Lake Wanaka, provided by the applicant’s landscape architect Nikki Smetham.

Reasonably hard to see . . . an artist’s render of the visible portion of a new house that has been proposed to replace the Hanna House on the western boundary of Wanaka. IMAGE: SUPPLIED/SORTED ARCHITECTURE

Landscape and planning experts had conflicting opinions about whether the proposed house
would be reasonably difficult to see.

The council’s planner Erica Walker recommended consent be granted, based on the screening impact of vegetation after five years growth.

Opposer Julian Haworth, secretary of the Upper Clutha Environmental Society, said the simulation showed how easily visible the new building would be and how easily visible the
existing house was from the lake.

“Even after five or 10 years of vegetation growth, the new house would remain not reasonably difficult to see,” he said.

Commissioners Nixon and Sinclair said they would focus on the “reasonably difficult to see criteria” during a visit to the site and public places.

The Nature Preservation Trust is a private Wanaka family trust.

It bought the Hanna property several years ago.

About 67% of the new house would be underground, with five cave portals with windows on the lower floor. Thousands of native trees will be planted to screen the development.\

Demolition, earthworks and construction would take two and a half years. Another two and a half years would be needed for the trees to grow big enough to screen the development from public places.

The project requires about 40,000 cumecs of earthworks and the commissioners must consider the temporary adverse visual effects from construction as well as any permanent adverse visual effects from the completed house.