Forrester Heights

No longer on display. Expired on 16 May 2022, 05:00 PM

Thank you to everyone who took the opportunity to make a submission on the Future of Forrester Heights. After public submissions were heard, Council made the decision to progress with a sale of the property in a manner that will ensure a financial return for the Council to use for the community’s benefit but will also address many of the important points raised by residents in the consultation process.  


Forrester Heights was given to the community for the community’s financial benefit. 

Most of the land at Forrester Heights is classified as ‘Endowment’ land and zoned residential. It was given to Council by the Crown ‘in aid of borough funds’. The Council planned to develop the land and sell it in 2006 to do just that – to aid borough funds by supporting the redevelopment of the Opera House from the proceeds of the sale, rather than increasing rates.

That development didn’t go ahead, since it was found a mistake had been made with one of the land titles 59 years earlier (in 1947). 

Now people are coming to us again wanting to buy the land, while others are wanting to turn it into a Reserve.

We know funds are tight. People are telling us they want to keep rates rises down. But there’s still a lot of things people want Council to do. How do we pay for the things people want? 

Should we do what the Council decided to do in 2006 – sell Forrester Heights? Or should we do something else with it? Selling some or all of the land could help pay for the things people want which benefit the community. Or could the land provide a benefit in other ways? 

Forrester Heights quick facts

Forrester Heights area map

  • Located above Ōamaru Harbour, below Lookout Point, between Avon and Test Streets 
  • About 2.5 hectares (6.2 acres) in three separate parcels
  • Most of it is ‘Endowment land’* (in green and orange on the below map), the rest is ‘Freehold land’* (in blue on the below map)
  • All of the land is zoned ‘residential’ 
  • In 2006 Council wanted to develop and sell 27 sections at the site but this project stalled after it was found a mistake had been made with one of the land titles 59 years earlier (in 1947)
  • This was corrected in Parliament with a Local Act (the Waitaki District Council Reserves and Other Land Empowering Act 2013). The Act confirmed the majority of Forrester Heights is Endowment land.

*What is Endowment Land?

‘Endowment land’ is land given to (vested in) a Council to be used for revenue generating purposes. A Council can sell Endowment land in accordance with Local Government Act 2002, and the sale proceeds must be used for purposes consistent with the Endowment. In this case, the Endowment purposes are: “aiding Waitaki District Council funds” (in orange on map) and “for the general purposes of the Corporation [of the Borough of Ōamaru]” (in green on map). For an explanation of the Forrester Heights land legal status click here.

*What is Freehold Land?

‘Freehold land’ is land owned outright by a Council. In this case the ‘freehold land‘ was formerly legal road. The road status was removed some time ago, and the land can be used for other reasons. This means it could become a reserve or be sold.


What are the options?

Each option has its pros and cons. For a full explanation of the legal status of the Forrester Heights land click here.

OPTION 1 - Make Forrester Heights a Reserve

We could try to turn all (or some) of Forrester Heights into a Reserve, with new plantings and walking tracks. But it wouldn’t be easy because most of it is Endowment land.

If the land was Freehold, the process to make it a Reserve is relatively easy. The way to do that is set out in the Reserves Act 1977. But most of Forrester Heights is Endowment land. To properly classify and administer the land as a Reserve, the legal status of the land would need to be changed. There are only two ways to remove the Endowment status: 

  1. through an Act of Parliament; or 
  2. by selling the land. 

A new Reserve at Forrester Heights would not be accessible for everyone.  If we were to invest in more greenspace reserve, would it be better to it have it somewhere else where more people could use it and enjoy it?


We would have a new Reserve that would add more of what people enjoy on Cape Wanbrow now.
New plantings would add more habitat for wildlife in this area.
The land would not be built on so it would stay open space.
Some people think Forrester Heights is a reserve now. This would make it one.


Changing Forrester Heights from Endowment land to a Reserve would need us to have a local Bill passed in Parliament to create a new law. That would cost money, it could take several years, and in the end, may not get passed.
✘  Setting up the new Reserve would also add to the rates bill. We already spend nearly $2 million per year looking after parks and reserves. Another Reserve would add to that. 
✘  Forrester Heights may not be the best site for a new Reserve. Because of its slope, it would need to be developed the same as other parts of the Cape. We have most of Oamaru’s reserves in the South End of town while there is very little in the North End.
The land would not be sold, so we would not have additional funds to use for purposes consistent with the Endowments.

OPTION 2 - Sell some or all of the Forrester Heights land

We could do this in a number of ways. We could call for tenders or sell it on the open market. Council could be the developer and sell the sections on its own. Or we could set up a joint venture.

If Forrester Heights was offered for sale, the market would set the price. But we would only sell if the price was right. Council would definitely have conditions that would keep the character of the area. Those conditions will include height limits and house design rules. 

If our conditions were met and a sale went ahead, the proceeds could be used in several ways. We could use the money to pay for a new service or facility like a new reserve in another part of Ōamaru or to help fund the new Waitaki Events Centre. Or we could invest it to generate a return to support services and reduce rate increases. We could also pay down debt, or even do a combination of all those things. See more about this in the FAQs.

The key thing is that we would need to spend the money in a way that made a big difference and gave real benefit to the community - now and in the future. 

If Council decided to offer Forrester Heights for sale after considering community feedback and all the pros and cons, and a sale did go ahead, the community would be consulted on specific options for how the money would be used. If the decision was made to sell only part of the land, then one of the other two options would apply to the remainder. 


The money from the sale would be used for the community’s benefit.
Any new households on Forrester Heights would pay rates.
As landowner, as part of any sale, the Council would set rules (called covenants) that would control development even more than the current planning rules. The rules would deal with height limits, house design, and would protect views from Lookout Point.


If the land was developed by Council before sale, it might mean extra costs and risks for us.
With houses on the land, it would look different and some open greenspace would be lost.
Having height and design rules may mean we get less when we sell the land.

OPTION 3 - Leave Forrester Heights as it is for now

Do nothing. Don’t develop it or change it. Spend the bare minimum on it now. Because of how Endowment land must be used, we would eventually have to use the land to generate revenue – just not right now.


The land may continue to gain value, meaning a potential higher return in future.
Council could focus on other priorities and projects.
We would retain the value some people see in the land as open, undeveloped space for now.


We could be missing the best time to get a good return on the land.
We would not have money from the sale to invest or use for other things people want.
Development costs are likely to go up over time. This may be the cheapest time to develop the land making it more attractive to a potential buyer.
Council would not actively invest in the land and some people think it’s a bit of an eyesore in its current state.
Doing nothing doesn’t solve anything. It just puts the decision off for another day.
The land would continue to have ‘holding costs’ (rates, etc) while generating no return.


Read the submissions

Submissions on the future of Forrester Heights closed 5pm Monday, 16 May 2022.

You can read the submissions on the Agenda attachments on the Council Hearings page. Watch the Live-stream of the Forrester Heights Submissions Hearings on our Youtube channel

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Could Forrester Heights be a Reserve?

Potentially. But it would take time and money, and there is no guarantee of success. Most of Forrester Heights - two of the three titles - is Endowment land, so its legal purpose is to raise funds for the community’s benefit. If we were going to make it a Reserve, then the Endowment status would need to be removed. Unless the land is sold to another party, only Parliament can do that. It would need to pass a Local Act removing the Endowments and creating the Reserve and that could cost $100,000 or more. You can find out more about what a Local Act involves.

For more information on the legal status of Forrester Heights land and the process of turning it into a Reserve:


How would Forrester Heights look if it was a Reserve and how much might it cost?

In addition to the costs of removing the Endowment status, it depends on what kind of Reserve it was. Because of the slope it would need to be developed like the Cape Wanbrow Reserve beside it. Planting native shrubs and trees would cost around $40,000 per hectare, making a total planting cost of $100,000 for the 2.5 hectares. It’s harder to say how much walking tracks would cost. It would depend on how long the tracks are, but track building costs are about $60 per metre so every 100 metres would cost $6,000. Maintenance costs for the Reserve would be about $5,000 per year for first 5 years.

Some money could be saved if jobs were done by volunteers but based on what’s happened in the past with Cape Wanbrow, paid contractors would do the bulk of the work.

What would Forrester Heights look like if homes were built there?

Right now, the land is zoned ‘residential’. That means houses can currently be up to 8 metres high. You can see how this would affect views from Lookout Point below, under current District Plan rules. If the land was sold, we would have extra rules (covenants) in the sales agreement setting lower height limits for houses and trees to protect the views from Lookout Point.

Is the Forrester Heights land unstable?

No. Several geotechnical tests of the land have been done.  The reports show that most of the land can be built on. 

Summary of Geotechnical Reports
  • Tonkin & Taylor (2005) Report(PDF, 6MB)
    This report generally provided positive geotechnical results demonstrating that 100KPA foundation bearing capacity could be achieved to 16 of the 17 scala penetrometer test locations, although wet loess and under-runners were found at excavated pit on Lot 9 
  • OPUS Review of Tonkin & Taylor (2005) Report(PDF, 439KB)
    This review recommended that additional testing should be carried out surrounding proposed Lot 9 to gain a better understanding of the ground conditions to the eastern portion of the site.  It appears that no further testing has been undertaken in this area. It also recommended that proven engineering methods and site verification tests need to be established for the fill slope of 2H:1V for the road construction.   
  • URS (2009) Report(PDF, 2MB)
    Overall, this report confirmed the positive geotechnical results of the Tonkin & Taylor (2005) Report.  All six excavated test pits taken under the proposed road location encountered firm to very stiff, dry to slightly damp loess.  No groundwater or under-runners were encountered.  All pits remained stable, with no signs of potential collapse.  One test pit revealed rotten rock 3.8m below the ground, which is above the expected road cutting base level.  Therefore, it is expected that some of the proposed road will need to be excavated into rotten rock 

How could the money be spent?

The Local Government Act 2002 does have rules about that. If Endowment land is sold, the money raised must be used to benefit the community. One way that could happen would be to use the funds to pay for some new service or facility that would benefit people, like helping to fund the Waitaki Events Centre or a new Reserve in another part of Oamaru that more people can access. Another way would be to take the money and invest to create an income stream for future generations. Or we could pay down debt or even do a mix of all those things.

The key thing is that we would need to spend the money in a way that makes a big difference and gives real benefit to the community. 

Wasn’t the money from Forrester Heights going to be used to help pay for the Opera House?

Yes, that was the plan back in 2006, when Council decided to sell the land. And that could still be done. But it doesn’t have to be. If we sell Forrester Heights now, we could use the funds to pay for other things - like developing one or more a new parks, paying off debt, funding another community project, or a combination of these things. We could also invest the money in ways that would give the benefit of a better financial return, to produce long term returns for current and future generations of ratepayers to enjoy.


Key dates

 Consultation opens  1 April 2022 
 Drop-ins at the Oamaru Farmers Market  Sundays 10 & 24 April, 8 May
 Consultation Closes   16 May 2022

 Council Hearings
(Hearings will be live-streamed on Council's Youtube channel)

11.00am - 3.00pm, Monday 30 May 2022 and
9.00am - 4.00pm (could be extended) Tuesday 31 May 2022
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