Tauranga ratepayers could foot housing development

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Tauranga ratepayers could end up the losers if the Government fails to heed advice on its proposed national policy to beef up housing development in high growth cities. Photo/file
Tauranga ratepayers could end up the losers if the Government fails to heed advice on its proposed national policy to beef up housing development in high growth cities. Photo/file

Tauranga ratepayers could end up the losers if the Government fails to heed advice on its proposed national policy to beef up housing development in high growth cities.

Fears that the policy to boost urban development capacity could have consequences on ratepayers costing millions of dollars has emerged from a study by the Tauranga City Council.

Councillors Matt Cowley and John Robson worked with staff to put together a 22-page submission on the Government policy.

They contended that the outcomes sought by the policy went beyond the scope of the council and the Local Government Act and Resource Management Act.

And although the council agreed yesterday that it generally supported the policy because it complimented the Bay's Smartgrowth planning strategy, it identified a fundamental weakness of who should pick up the financial risk.

''Local authorities alone cannot deliver all the essential elements to support growth,'' the submission said.

The council said that most of its capacity to absorb future debt was already committed to funding growth.

Any requirement stemming from the policy to increase investment in infrastructure without financial support would likely have ''serious consequences for existing and future ratepayers''.

The Government needed to take the risk out of growth-related capital works because the council did not have the ability to pay for the infrastructure, nor the many elements that fell outside of its control such as highways and new schools.

The council currently operated a just-in-time policy of installing infrastructure to service new growth areas. This was because development slowdowns in the past had ended up costing ratepayers millions of dollars.

It said the targets set by the national policy needed to balance the certainty of future development capacity with cost effective delivery of infrastructure.

The council sought co-investment with the private sector and central government.

''This is necessary not just for trunk infrastructure but the full package of elements required to create successful communities.''

The council also wants the Government to investigate new measures under the Public Works Act for the ''timely acquisition of land''.

It supported changes to the Resource Management Act to provide a stream-lined process with limited appeal provisions for planning changes that were consistent with publicly consulted plans in high growth areas.

The council also wants to see a national strategy for the delivery of non-market housing like social housing and community housing.

Councillor Steve Morris said there had been no affordable housing in Tauranga green-field developments for 25 years.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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