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Western Bay of Plenty housing intensification rules put on hold

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Councillor Don Thwaites said enabling 4900 more homes In Ōmokoroa was “totally reckless”. Photo / John Borren, SunLive

Planning rules that allow greater housing intensification in two Western Bay of Plenty towns have been put on hold.

The Western Bay of Plenty District Council deferred adopting intensification planning rules over concerns the infrastructure isn’t in place to support it.

During a meeting on Thursday, councillors described the plan as “totally reckless” and “social planning of the very worst [kind]”.

The Government’s medium-density residential standards mean Western Bay’s urban areas of Ōmokoroa and Te Puke have been earmarked for greater housing intensification.

These areas are projected to have populations over 10,000 in coming years.

The nine standards include allowing three homes on a site, houses up to 11m high, half of a site can be buildings, and at least 20sq m of outdoor space must be available.

The previous Government made these rules mandatory.

However, the new Government says councils can opt into the rules, although the legislation supporting mandatory rules remains in place.

The Western Bay of Plenty District Council formed independent hearing panels to hear submissions on this proposal – Plan Change 92 Enabling Housing Supply – in September 2023, with recommendations released in January.

The council was asked to consider the panel’s recommendations, which covered various submission points, at Thursday’s meeting.

Councillor Don Thwaites said it was “totally reckless” to allow 4905 new residential dwellings in Ōmokoroa and for retirement villages to count four units as one dwelling, as well a new commercial and industrial zoning.

Dangerous intersections and heavy traffic on State Highway 2 had also not been addressed, he said.

A new roundabout will be built at the intersection of SH2 and Ōmokoroa to address safety concerns. Photo / Alisha Evans, SunLive
A new roundabout will be built at the intersection of SH2 and Ōmokoroa to address safety concerns. Photo / Alisha Evans, SunLive

A “temporary roundabout” to be built at the intersection of SH2 and Ōmokoroa was insufficient for the area, said Thwaites.

“From a roading point of view, I totally reject [the recommendations].”

Early works have begun on the $43m intersection upgrade, which will create four lanes on Ōmokoroa Rd to Prole Rd and the interim roundabout.

The roundabout was expected to remain until the Tauranga Northern Link (TNL) Stage two, a four-lane highway between Ōmokoroa and Te Puna, was built.

Stage one from Te Puna to Tauranga was under way.

Deputy chief executive and strategy and community general manager Rachael Davie said the Government funding for the intersection upgrade was to enable land in Ōmokoroa to be opened up for housing.

”This is an important decision for this council, not only in terms of the community. But also in terms of its commitment to the urban growth partnership … to opening up land for housing, noting that we have a significant housing crisis across the sub-region.”

She recommended letting the matter lie on the table rather than rejecting it.

Councillor Margaret Murray-Benge had concerns about people living on “slivers of sections”. Photo / John Borren, SunLive.
Councillor Margaret Murray-Benge had concerns about people living on “slivers of sections”. Photo / John Borren, SunLive.

Councillor Margaret Murray-Benge said plans to allow people to live on “slivers of sections” with no garages or off-street parking was “social planning of the very worst [kind]”.

”The antisocial environment that we will be creating by having these tiny, tiny little sections where you cannot swing a cat. I think is just immoral.”

Councillor Rodney Joyce raised concerns around safe access for emergency services and adequate public transport.

”I am very concerned … that we are saying things like ‘build it and the public transport will come’. That is not a plan.”

Joyce said he understood the need for intensification, but the council should try for a better plan.

Environmental planning manager Natalie Rutland said if the council rejected the panel’s recommendations, the Government would then make the final decision.

Omokoroa.  Photo / John Borren, SunLive
Omokoroa. Photo / John Borren, SunLive

Deputy mayor John Scrimgeour said he accepted the recommendations with mixed feelings as some of the details were less than perfect, but he believed these could be picked up through other planning processes.

”It’s very important that we retain the ability to react to those changes and proposals and make our own decisions.

”We need to be very cautious about putting our destiny in other people’s hands.”

Mayor James Denyer said the council would lose control if the decision was left with the Government.

Mayor James Denyer said the development was already happening and needed parameters. Photo / John Borren, SunLive
Mayor James Denyer said the development was already happening and needed parameters. Photo / John Borren, SunLive

”This development is happening anyway. This plan change puts in place essential parameters to control that,” he said.

”If we say ‘no’ to this, we will get worse development.”

The council voted to let the matter lie on the table to be revisited later.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.



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