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Changing the city plan to enable housing supply

We’re preparing to amend the Tauranga City Plan, to help address our shortage of homes and help our city grow up as well as out.

Tauranga is growing, and like all major cities we’re in the thick of a housing crisis. We’re short of homes, and there is limited bare land available that’s suitable for development. There’s also very little choice in the type and size of homes available in existing residential areas, with the three/four-bedroom standalone house still the standard throughout Tauranga.

To help address our housing crisis, Tauranga needs to grow up as well as out. And we’ve been given strict direction by central government to enable this, fast.

Central government direction

Late last year the Government passed a piece of legislation to help grow New Zealand cities: the Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2021. It directs the councils of high-growth cities, including Tauranga, to amend their city plans so that they:

  • allow people to build up to three dwellings of up to three storeys (a height of 11 metres) on most sections in residential zones, without needing to obtain a resource consent
  • enable higher density housing with more building height around the city centre and town centres across the city, and close to public transport.

We are required by the Amendment Act to change the Tauranga City Plan to enable this, through a plan change which must be notified to the community for feedback by 20 August this year.

Influencing the plan change

There is limited scope as to what we – both Council and the community – can influence, as the Amendment Act dictates what many of the rules need to look like, especially for buildings of three storeys or less.

What we can influence is what developments of four storeys or more will look like, and where these higher density areas are located. You will have the opportunity to have your say on this through the formal submission process.

Work in progress

We’re working under a very short timeframe for this plan change, which is also technically complex. We don’t have all the answers yet as to what it will contain, so we will be sharing information as we go. Here is what we know for now.

Enabling medium density housing in all residential zones

The Amendment Act defined a set of Medium Density Residential Standards, that we must apply to our residential zones, allowing people to build up to three dwellings of up to three storeys without a resource consent. Take a look at the proposed rules for medium density.

Drafting rules for medium density housing

Enabling higher density housing around centres

The Amendment Act also requires our city plan to enable higher density housing with more building height around the city centre and town centres across the city, and close to public transport. Find out how we’re planning to decide where higher density housing should be made easier.

Drafting rules for higher density housing

Where the higher densities may not apply

There are some areas of the city that may be identified as unsuitable for higher densities. This needs to be justified through the plan change process.

Identifying where the rules may not apply

What about infrastructure capacity?

Can our city’s infrastructure handle the level of density that these new rules will enable?

Usually we would only allow development in an area if we knew our infrastructure (water supply, wastewater, stormwater, transport) could handle the needs of the additional people living there, and we would manage this through a resource consenting process.

With the changes required by the Amendment Act, this will continue to apply for higher density developments, but not for medium density developments.

With the changes required by the Amendment Act, once the plan change is publicly notified developers won’t need to provide infrastructure assessments for medium density developments (three dwellings/three storeys).

  • Modelling of water supply and wastewater infrastructure capacity has shown that our trunk network (big pipes) can accommodate the level of development that would be delivered as a result of the new medium density rules. However, we do not know whether the smaller pipes servicing specific streets will be able to cope, as we don’t know where or when this development will occur. We can’t put restrictions through the plan change to limit density in specific areas on that basis. So we are considering other mechanisms, outside the city plan, to help us manage infrastructure capacity for one to three dwellings where there are capacity constraints.
  • As for transport, the Western Bay Transport System Plan (TSP) is being rolled out to support future ‘up and out’ city growth, including catering for the higher densities that will be enabled by the plan change. The TSP aims to connect existing and new urban centres to make it easy to move around to work, learn and play. The TSP is focused on creating a shift from cars onto public transport, improving safety, providing reliable travel times and creating better walking and cycling connections.

We are proposing that the plan change includes a rule that requires infrastructure capacity assessments for water, wastewater, stormwater and transport for higher density developments (four or more dwellings/ storeys). The point of these assessments is to understand whether there is enough capacity in the local network to support each development.

Weren’t you working on something like this already?

We had been working over the past few years on similar processes to increase the supply of housing in Tauranga: Plan Change 26: Housing choice; and the 10-yearly review of the Tauranga City Plan. Both processes were put on hold in December 2021, as we considered the implications of the Amendment Act.

We’re working through this right now. Some parts of Plan Change 26 will still apply given the changes required through the Amendment Act. This includes the implementation of the Te Papa Spatial Plan, how we assess resource consent applications for multiple dwellings on a site, and the Residential Outcomes Framework. Other parts won’t. While we consider the options for Plan Change 26 and the best way to implement it through this new plan change, it will remain on hold.

We will carry over the stakeholder and community feedback we received from these processes as we develop the new plan change, as much as possible. This doesn’t mean that we’ll be able to consider all submissions made, especially because the Amendment Act prescribes many of the rules.

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  • Preparation of the proposed plan change, including engagement with tangata whenua and stakeholder groups

    March-August 2022
  • Public notification of the plan change

    On this day the medium density residential standards take legal effect (no resource consent required for building up to three dwellings of up to three storeys)

    Late August 2022
  • Public submission period

    Late August/October 2022
  • A summary of submissions is published and submitters are invited to make further submissions

    Late 2022/early 2023
  • Hearings

    Mid 2023
  • Council decision and plan change becomes operative

    End 2023

What is the city plan and a plan change?

City Plan and plan change information

Good to know

Visible change in Tauranga through this plan change would not happen all at once. It would happen over time as development occurs across the city due to market demand, and as people decide to redevelop their sections in existing residential areas. 

Change is already happening in and around our city centre and along the Te Papa peninsula, and this is where you will first see our urban transformation in play. 

In such areas, gradual change could happen like this:

Concept Drawing: A neighbourhood changing over time (4.5mb pdf)

Remember, what you do with your house or land is up to you – but the proposed changes could open up significant opportunity for our community and our city over time.

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