John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Answers pledged on Tauranga jams

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Housing Minister Nick Smith explained what the Government was doing about declining home ownership during his visit to a planned Omokoroa development yesterday. He is flanked by Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller and developer Peter Cooney. Photo / John Borren
Housing Minister Nick Smith explained what the Government was doing about declining home ownership during his visit to a planned Omokoroa development yesterday. He is flanked by Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller and developer Peter Cooney. Photo / John Borren

Solutions are expected to be announced in April to the growing traffic queues that clog State Highway 2 into Tauranga every weekday morning.

Housing Minister Nick Smith was yesterday brought up to speed on the issues facing Omokoroa and what needed to happen to ease traffic congestion caused by the growing number of commuters living between Tauranga and Katikati.

His visit to the Western Bay District Council's first Special Housing Area at Omokoroa coincided with the usual morning rush-hour queue travelling at a crawling pace between Te Puna and Bethlehem. The tail yesterday ended near the road to Te Puna Quarry Park.

The need to progress construction of the planned Tauranga Northern Link motorway was raised by Western Bay Mayor Ross Paterson who has been working with Transport Minister Simon Bridges on the issue.

Read more: Inside story: Traffic troubles in Tauranga

An announcement on improvements to this section of SH2 was expected in April, with Mr Paterson saying he was seeking commitments on the Northern Link and construction of a roundabout with Omokoroa Rd.

Omokoroa councillor Garry Webber said the queue on SH2 up to Bethlehem's first roundabout started at about 7.45am and ended an hour later. The council had rescheduled its 9am committee meetings to 9.30am to allow councillors to get through the traffic.

Mr Smith's meeting with the council and developers took place in the kiwifruit orchards that will start to be bulldozed later this year.

The first phase of the 17.6ha development will see up to 165 houses built in a medium density subdivision by Tauranga-based company Classic Builders. It will ultimately hold 255 homes and looks like becoming the first Omokoroa residential development to happen on the other side of the railway.

An area of 4000sq m has been set aside for an affordable housing cluster to be developed in accordance with SmartGrowth's Housing Affordability Forum.

Developer Peter Cooney made it clear it would be hard to achieve the council's target of a quarter of the houses in the subdivision being priced at less than $350,000. He said afterwards that even the target of a quarter of the houses selling for $350,000 to $400,000 would be a challenge, suggesting the cheapest would be at the end of this price range. "$400,000 to $450,000 is achievable."

Escalating costs since the targets were set meant that a house and section package of less than $350,000 had become wishful thinking.

He blamed compliance issues, health and safety requirements and the increasing costs of construction, materials and sub-trades. "Everything has gone up."

Mr Paterson said it would not be a slummy development. "We want a good built environment."

With Omokoroa's population expected to double over the next 15 years, with more young families, talks had begun with the Ministry of Education to build a high school on land owned by the council.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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