A far-reaching project with the potential to transform areas of Tauranga into medium-rise living has been kicked off by the city council.

Called compact city, the council has unanimously agreed to commence the project to "advance intensification in the existing Tauranga urban area".

The project was part of a suite of measures underpinning the SmartGrowth residential and commercial planning strategy for the Western Bay.

Compact city was also responding to the Government's proposed National Policy Statement to boost urban development capacity through intensification.


The first urban area out of the blocks would be the City Living Zone from Mission St to 9th Ave, excluding the CBD. Planning rules already allowed medium-rise apartment-style living after the council achieved buy-in from residents.

City planning and growth manager Michael Tucker told councillors yesterday that planning rules needed tweaking in the City Living Zone. He said a range of other issues were stopping investment from occurring.

Mayor Stuart Crosby highlighted how areas consented for medium rise subdivisions like The Coast at Papamoa had ended up with the developer not taking that option.

The focus needed to be on commercial viability, with the ultimate goal to offer a range of housing options for the community, he said.

"Demographic and population changes meant a lot of people were coming to Tauranga seeking smaller and more compact homes."

Councillor Rick Curach said although the priority was the City Living Zone, he wanted to see work to intensify residential areas done before that. The demand was in the urban zone and not so much the City Centre or City Living zones.

The council's strategy group general manager Christine Jones said the community needed to be actively engaged in the conversation about intensification in order to safeguard what was allowed.

Mr Tucker said people were willing to trade off living in smaller homes if it meant living closer to work, schools and amenities like hospitals.

Yesterday's decision meant tweaking the rules in the City Living Zone would begin almost immediately.

Councillor John Robson said intensification took a long time and the work being done now might not result in substantial changes for many years.

The council would need to show it was utilising existing urban areas as efficiently as possible in order to utilise future greenfield areas for development.

Councillor Matt Cowley said there were some very ambitious targets and he predicted there would be some "difficult conversations" with the community. The council had picked some early winners where the planning was already in place.

Compact city's four work streams
- Activate Tauranga's city centre
- Refine the planning framework in the City Living Zone surrounding the CBD
- Consider intensification opportunities in the suburbs
- Carry out a range of specific growth-related projects