Developer's goals are reignited

By John Cousins

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New life has been breathed into former Tauranga MP Bob Clarkson's plans to build a thousand fixed-price affordable homes at Tauriko.

Barely a month after Mr Clarkson shipped $5 million of new earthmoving machinery to Australia, the Tauranga City Council has agreed to evaluate his proposal to rezone 200 hectares of rural land in order to build a mixture of affordable and more expensive housing.

The council voted 9-2 to evaluate his plan with the Western Bay's other SmartGrowth partner councils - the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and the Western Bay of Plenty District Council. Opposing were councillor Bill Faulkner and Mayor Stuart Crosby.

SmartGrowth sets out where urban growth can occur in the Western Bay during the next 40 years, with Mr Clarkson's land between the Wairoa River and State Highway 29 sitting outside Tauranga's urban growth limits.

Mr Clarkson cleared the way by withdrawing his appeal against the council's refusal to rezone land neighbouring Tauriko School for industrial development.

He has now switched his focus to building homes on all the 200ha, of which 160ha sat in the Western Bay District Council's area.

Mr Clarkson has also withdrawn his appeal against the district council's refusal to rezone the 160ha from rural to residential.

A key to making progress on the affordable housing plan was for the district council to make a similar decision to the city council when it ruled on Mr Clarkson's submission to its 10-year plan.

The decision will be made this week.

Mr Clarkson wants to build 1000 affordable homes at a guaranteed price of $280,000 for a house and section package, or about $120,000 less than the existing market price for a three-bedroom brick home with a double internal garage on 400sq m.

The city council's decision was on condition that Mr Clarkson met all the costs, including staff time.

He wants to initiate a private planning change in the same way as The Lakes was opened up by Grasshopper Properties.

He said he expected it would cost him at least $1.5 million, adding to the $950,00 spent on the last unsuccessful process through the district and city councils' planning reviews.

Mr Clarkson was still bitter about the knock-backs: "I want to build affordable homes. Every week it is delayed, the prices go up because I am holding the land costs."

He said council planners needed to learn to build fences with small gates so that they could control development but not stop it. "Town planners are steering the council."

Mr Clarkson understood there would be no problem hooking him into the Southern Pipeline, a new $100 million sewerage system under construction between Maleme St and Te Maunga.

"Tauranga needs developers like me that are prepared to pay all the costs," Mr Clarkson said.

He doubted the 40ha in the Tauranga City area would be viable for affordable housing if the Western Bay council did not co-operate.

All going well, he would have ticked all the planning boxes by the middle of next year, allowing him to start building 200 affordable homes a year. A further 1000, more expensive homes were planned, including prime sites fronting the Wairoa River.

Tauranga's Deputy Mayor David Stewart said the process would give Mr Clarkson a steer on what was required.

The land would be developed one day, the question was when and how.

Mr Stewart said if the land could be developed at no, or little, cost to the council, then that was a good thing.

However, there were still a number of hurdles, not the least being the New Zealand Transport Agency and the roading situation. "It's big picture stuff," he said.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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