At the first Urban Form and Transport Development Committee meeting today, councillors heard an update on the city planning projects in progress to support the growth of the city. They also received a report on the development capacity in Tauranga: the amount of land available for housing development.
The report, along with addresses from three developers at the beginning of the meeting, highlighted the impending shortage of developable land in Tauranga.
Nathan York (Bluehaven), Scott Adams (Carrus) and Peter Cooney (Classic Builders) flagged that in their view Tauranga only has a little over a year’s worth of realisable land supply – a view shared by Council. They warned that a lack of rapid action from Council and the Government will accelerate the housing crisis facing Tauranga, with real impacts on the community in the form of increasing house prices and looming job losses in the construction industry.
The developers called on Council to take urgent action: accelerate changes to planning rules to enable intensification, prioritise capital investment towards core infrastructure, and importantly work together with the development industry to lobby central Government for investment, particularly in roading, and for enabling legislation.
Committee Chair Larry Baldock explains that to be developed for housing, land needs to be zoned through a City Plan Change process, and be serviced in advance with the appropriate infrastructure for water supply, wastewater, stormwater and transportation.
NZ Transport Agency partnership and investment in roading is required to unlock housing developments. Improvements to SH29 are needed to open the new urban growth area at Tauriko West, which could yield over 3000 new homes; and the proposed Tauranga Northern Link is required to enable further growth in Omokoroa, in the Western Bay of Plenty District.
Cr. Baldock says that the current absence of decision making by the Transport Agency, and the lack of certainty in investment, are creating significant risks.
“Without certainty that our transport network can handle more people, we are limited in what we can do to plan for the mid- to long-term”, he said.
“And as a result we are seeing delays in our planning for new urban growth areas.”
Compounding the issue are some infrastructure challenges for particular zoned sites, and a slow release to the market by some developers who control large development sites.
In addition, a legislative tool to rapidly increase the supply of developable land will soon no longer be available to high-growth councils. The Government recently confirmed that the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Act would not be extended beyond September 2019. The Act enabled the establishment of special housing areas (SHAs) – sites appropriate for new housing that could be developed faster through an accelerated resource consenting process.
Special housing areas were an effective tool to bring housing to the market faster. Since 2014, thirteen SHAs have been approved in Tauranga, providing additional capacity for 3373 dwellings.
One last SHA, for 77 dwellings, is in the process of being sent to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development for consideration. With the timeframes to make a recommendation to the Minister before the repeal date in September, Tauranga City Council will be unable to progress any other proposed SHAs.
If the legislation had been extended, as Tauranga City Council has been advocating, other SHAs put forward by developers across the city could have provided capacity for around 1000 new homes. It would have given Council more flexibility in other projects as well, like to potentially bring forward development in the Tauriko West urban growth area by a number of years.
“We plan to ramp up our engagement with the Government, and particularly the NZ Transport Agency, on all these issues,” said Cr. Baldock.
Council formally resolved to request urgent Government action to address transport infrastructure to support land development across Tauranga and the wider sub-region, particularly at Tauriko West and Te Tumu.
Council also resolved to request that Government urgently reconsider the decision to end special housing areas in Tauranga and the wider sub-region, because special housing areas are required to support the short-term delivery of increased land and housing supply to the market.
“We will take up the development industry’s offer and recommendation to join forces in discussions with Government, as going about this individually hasn’t worked”, Cr. Baldock said.
“We will present a joint voice, with them, Western Bay of Plenty District Council and our other SmartGrowth partners, as the Government’s decisions impact the whole western Bay of Plenty and our sub-region’s capacity to manage its rapid growth.”
The SmartGrowth partner councils remain committed to progressing the agreed SmartGrowth settlement pattern as soon as possible, in order to ensure sufficient development capacity to cater for projected growth in the western Bay of Plenty.
Tauranga City Council will continue planning for new urban areas including Tauriko West and Te Tumu. Council is also starting work on creating a spatial plan for the Te Papa peninsula that supports more housing choice and better quality of life, in line with the objectives of the draft Tauranga Urban Strategy. The spatial plan will be delivered through tools such as plan changes and multi-agency investment in a range of different types of infrastructure like parks, streets and services. Engagement with the community on the future of Te Papa is due to start mid-2019.