Central Otago landowner refusing to sell property for large-scale development

Fruit growers in Central Otago fear their multimillion dollar industry will be undermined if a large-scale development goes ahead right on their doorstep.

Residents living on the earmarked land in Cromwell are also putting up a fight. 

One of those is Rex Edgar. With five hectares to help house his classic car collection, he's not budging.

"This is my property, this is my little kingdom, it's what I enjoy," he told Newshub. "This is where I want to be."

But developers have other ideas.

Edgar's land is surrounded by 50-hectares earmarked for the River Terrace Development; 900 new homes, shops, a retirement village and even the possibility of a school.

The 62-year-old Edgar bought the section more than a decade ago for $900,000.

He's turned down a $1 million offer from developers and says he will not be bribed. 

"It's not about the money - this is what I bought for me," he said. "The money would have to be ridiculously large for me to go anywhere."

Edgar isn't alone - the overwhelming majority of public submissions oppose the plans and a three week hearing is underway to hear evidence. 

Fruit growers in the area are concerned new residents will immediately complain about the noise - with helicopters and giant fans frequently used in frost fighting.

Those new neighbours that we'll have across our boundary will be subjected to maybe consecutive nights of being woken by these machines," Suncrest Orchard owner Michael Jones told Newshub.

Business is booming for the Suncrest Orchard, and with 35 years in the same family, Jones isn't prepared to let it go.  

"We've put in $15.9 million in wages alone into the local economy and we've spent $4.2 million in the last five years on new plant," he said. 

Development firm Winton wouldn't be interviewed on camera but said in a statement the development offers cheap housing amid a housing affordability crisis.

"The master-planned River Terrace proposal offers both sections and quality house/land packages at a level that is affordable, and within a timeframe that will address the current crisis.

"Based on current growth characteristics, we believe there is significant demand."

Edgar though is hopeful the urban sprawl doesn't land on his doorstep any time soon.

"It's rural that's what it's supposed to be," he said.