The intensification of Tauranga into a compact city has emerged as a common theme from studies meant to provide a blueprint for how the city and the rest of the Western Bay should grow.

More than 180 people spent hundreds of voluntary hours channelling their expertise into nine forums tasked with highlighting issues that needed to be considered in growth planning.

Each forum reported back to the Western Bay's SmartGrowth committee yesterday, with a lot of overlapping on the vision for Tauranga to become a compact city.

Former city councillor and forum member Mary Dillon urged incremental progress towards intensification, warning they would not get everyone on board. "There will be some nay-sayers."

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A consensus emerged that in order to make the Western Bay as good a place to live as possible, the community had to be brought along in a proactive rather than reactive way.

Western Bay Mayor Ross Paterson said social infrastructure was just as important as physical infrastructure in growth planning.

Ross Paterson
Ross Paterson

"Today has been a massive step forward, but it will take time."

Resourcing emerged as a key issue to ensure that the recommendations from the forums translated into reality.

Mr Paterson said central government needed to be involved. Without this link, things would come bouncing out of Wellington that were not focused on the problems addressed by the forums. "Central government has a large role to play."

Regional councillor Jane Nees said they could not wave a magic wand and make it all happen unless it was delivered through District Plans and consents.

Property developers forum spokesman Jeff Fletcher said going higher did not always mean affordability because building costs were more. He suggested intensification using townhouses, duplexes and terrace-style accommodation.

Housing affordability forum spokeswoman Jo Gravitt wanted a can-do approach to planning that focused on people and amenities instead of the traditional focus on hard infrastructure.

Mrs Gravitt said it was about the people's right to shelter and not just tradeable property investments. A compact city centred on a range of housing types near facilities and with low travel costs, was critical to getting more equity in society.

The meeting was told that many people were prepared to trade off the size of a house if it meant living closer to services, schools and jobs. "We are looking at liveability and the potential for people to have a different lifestyle," the spokeswoman for the ageing population forum Carole Gordon said.

Jo Wills of the environmental sustainability forum said high quality soils had to be protected from development.

Tauranga councillor John Robson said that unless there was adequate resourcing and people who would be made accountable, they would be in exactly the same position in 10 years time.

"I don't want to be party to repeated mistakes of the past."

Issues canvassed by SmartGrowth forums

- Tangata whenua

- Community health

- Social infrastructure

- Housing affordability

- Population ageing

- Environmental sustainability

- Property development