Census delay hinders growth

By John Cousins

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Delays in the Census caused by the Christchurch earthquakes has created an "elephant in the room" for Western Bay's master plan to decide where new residential and commercial development should happen.

The completion of SmartGrowth's review of settlement patterns for Tauranga and the rest of the Western Bay has been put on hold until the Census data is in.

The importance of the work to decide where and when the new settlements would take place was highlighted by the New Zealand Transport Agency yesterday.

Agency representatives stressed the importance of the settlement review in deciding future highway construction projects.

They were addressing SmartGrowth's joint councils, before the politicians begin the process of deciding on the updated SmartGrowth strategy.

However, Councillor Garry Webber said SmartGrowth's review of settlement patterns was the "elephant in the room", saying afterwards that it could not start until they had the Census data.

The agency's Bay of Plenty planning and investment adviser Richard Hurn said what the agency was really interested in getting was evidence and to know that SmartGrowth's forecasts were robust.

He said the clearer the messages were from SmartGrowth, the more traction it would get because the agency would know when to jump. "The more specific it is, the more likely we will be to stand next to you at the right time."

Mr Hurn said they wanted to rely on the decisions coming from SmartGrowth, rather than try to run things by understanding what property investors wanted to do.

The agency's principal planning adviser Alastair Talbot said they needed certainty from SmartGrowth: "It is the settlement patterns we need now".

Mayor Stuart Crosby complained that tens of millions of dollars had been spent on the flip-flops of different governments' transport ideologies, from the Labour coalitions's emphasis on buses and cycle lanes to the current Government's economic development focus.

Mr Webber said afterwards they would need to look at demographic studies which showed that for a population to grow, it at least needed three-person households to replace the parents.

"If you look at the demographics of places like Omokoroa, there are not a lot of children being born there," he said.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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