Sonya is a social issues reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Mayor has fears over potential debt

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Tauranga is one of the highest growth areas in the country.
Tauranga is one of the highest growth areas in the country.

Land supply for housing is being targeted by the Government, which is requiring councils to open up land for development in high growth areas - including the Bay.

But local mayors say the region is already working towards this under SmartGrowth.

The Government yesterday released its draft National Policy Statement on Urban Development Capacity, which, if adopted, would require councils to ensure land supply for housing and businesses kept pace with growth.

This applied to Tauranga City, Western Bay District and Bay of Plenty Regional councils, which together were named as "high growth urban areas" with a projected population growth of 15.1 per cent by 2023, second only to Auckland with a projected growth of 18.1 per cent in this timeframe.

Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby, who was in Wellington yesterday to talk to the Government about the details of the statement, said most of the elements in the draft statement were about planning ahead and making sure there was sufficient zoned land available to keep pace with growth.

"We do that anyway . . . I don't see a great imposition if this is adopted. I do agree with elements of it in terms of make sure that the planners articulate what is actually available in land, not what is theoretically available."

Mr Crosby said potential issues with infrastructure costs would need to be further discussed with the Government. He said infrastructure costs would impact the council's balance sheet and there was only "so much debt" the council was willing to get into. It was important councils created communities, rather than just pumping out houses.

Tauranga MP Simon Bridges said the statement would be good for Tauranga as one of the highest growth areas in the country.

"It's helping to ensure that land supply for housing and businesses keeps pace with the boom that we're seeing at the moment.

"I think we all know that housing is a real issue and this is not going to be a silver bullet, but it is going to be one of the tools, and probably one of the more important ones at that."

Mr Bridges said the statement should help achieve long-term changes with land supply.

Labour Housing spokesman Phil Twyford said the draft statement said nothing about who paid for infrastructure, which in his view was a failure.

He said New Zealand should adopt a much smarter approach to urban growth by getting rid of urban growth boundaries and using more intensive spatial planning to protect areas of special value.

"The Government's belief is that land supply is the only issue behind expensive housing, Tauranga shows that's not the only issue."

Western Bay Mayor Ross Paterson said the statement was an advancement on what local councils were already doing with SmartGrowth. He said it was important to understand the infrastructure demand that came with the expansion of greenfield land.

"If we get infrastructure pushed on us it puts pressure on ratepayers and on debt levels."

Government's aims:

The draft National Policy Statement on Urban Development Capacity requires councils to:

• Provide sufficient land for new housing and business to match projected growth in their region, city or district plans.
• Monitor and respond to housing affordability data, building and resource consent data, and value of land on the urban boundaries.
• Take into account the difference between planned and commercially feasible development capacity, and provide for over-supply to ensure competition.
• Co-ordinate their infrastructure and ensure their consenting processes are customer focused.
• Recognise the national significance of ensuring sufficient land is available over local interests.

- Environment, Building and Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith

- Bay of Plenty Times

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