More money for SmartGrowth?

By John Cousins

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Mayor Stuart Crosby
Mayor Stuart Crosby

Tauranga ratepayers' contribution to SmartGrowth could be boosted to $500,000 this year to fast track the Western Bay's development masterplan.

Pressure from property developers helped spur SmartGrowth's committee to agree to spend an extra $240,000 to increase staff from one to three.

Yesterday's decision followed widespread frustration that a key piece of work to review settlement patterns in the Western Bay would not be finished for two years.

The $240,000 would be split between the regional council and the Tauranga and Western Bay councils - potentially increasing Tauranga City Council's contribution to SmartGrowth to $500,000 this year. If the funding request to SmartGrowth's member councils was accepted, the project would be completed by August next year.

The Bay of Plenty branch of the Property Council, Bluehaven Management, Te Tumu landowners and Zariba Holdings said SmartGrowth's one full-time staff member was not enough to drive all the actions in SmartGrowth's 2013 strategy.

They argued that mid-2016 was too long to wait for work needed to provide planning certainty for residential and commercial growth in the Western Bay.

SmartGrowth's implementation manager Justine Brennan described the settlement pattern review as a complex project of critical importance, with long-term decisions needed for land-use, infrastructure and funding.

She said the evidence behind the review needed to be robust, but the small pool of technical staff from partner councils responsible for gathering this evidence had many other competing demands on their time.

Regional councillor Paula Thompson supported employing the extra staff so there was no tension between SmartGrowth and the Tauranga City and Western Bay District councils. "Let's not put ourselves in the position of having ongoing tension."

Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby said there was no guarantee that his council's $80,000 share would survive the 2014-15 budget process.

Ms Brennan said the risks of being inadequately funded included their work programme being dominated by the settlement pattern review, with not enough progress on other aspects of the new SmartGrowth strategy.

Fifty of the 126 actions listed in the 2013 review of SmartGrowth were deemed to be urgent or priorities.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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