Tauranga is leading New Zealand in the number of subdivisions and developments being declared Special Housing Areas.

Eleven have been approved by the Government, one application is in the pipeline and one awaits a planning-change decision.

Deputy mayor Kelvin Clout said Tauranga was continuing to deal with the issue of housing availability and supply.

"We are clearly leading New Zealand in this field," he told a recent council meeting.

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But councillor Steve Morris said developers had been let off the hook in terms of affordable housing.

He said that many, if not all, of Tauranga's Special Housing Areas did not provide affordable housing. ''We have let them off the hook.''

Councillor Larry Baldock argued that one of the keys to affordable housing was to increase the housing supply.

The meeting agreed to recommend adding a large site at the industrial end of Greerton's Chadwick Rd to the city's stock of Special Housing Areas.

Celt Saxon Corp plans to redevelop the 1.2ha site into a 130-unit housing complex with 71 townhouses and a four-level apartment block holding 59 apartments. The units would sell for between $375,000 and $550,000.

The proposed 13th Special Housing Area is a 16.6ha southern extension to Papamoa's Golden Sands subdivision at Wairakei. It would deliver an additional 273 dwellings, or enough houses for about 670 people.

But because the land is included within an area zoned for sports fields, the council's recommendation to the Minister for Building and Construction was conditional on an independent hearing commissioner deciding that the planned sports fields could be rezoned for housing.

A decision on the rezoning hearing held on May 24 and 25 is due out later this month.

Special Housing Area legislation has allowed developers to fast-track subdivisions by relaxing some of the hurdles in the Resource Management Act including consultation and housing densities.

Mr Clout said that of the 11 Special Housing Areas approved by the minister, one had lapsed and the rest had been consented.

Council policy planner Janine Speedy told the Bay of Plenty Times that the lapsed area was for Papamoa Junction which had not lodged a resource consent.

Her report to the meeting said that consultation on the Golden Sands extension had led to feedback from 32 interested parties.

She said it was important to distinguish between the council's rules that provided for open-space reserves and the rules for active sports field reserves.

Golden Sands' proposed Special Housing Area would still need to meet the council's open-space rule of 1.7ha of land per 1000 people.

On the issue of sports fields, she said the council had identified that its "policy outcomes'' could be better achieved by locating the active reserve in the Te Tumu Urban Growth Area that neighboured Wairakei. Development had not started in Te Tumu.

Mr Baldock said people concerned about losing land to housing would get their response through the rezoning hearing. Stormwater reserves covering nearly 1.3ha would also run through the area, along with the open-space reserves.

Section sizes in the proposed Golden Sands extension Special Housing Area would average between 450sq m and 500sq m. None would go below the council's minimum residential lot size of 325sq m.

Key themes by opponents of the Golden Sands extension Special Housing Area
- Loss of open space
- Area was already overpopulated
- Traffic volumes
- Loss of property values
- Small section sizes
- Lack of infrastructure
Source: Tauranga City Council