A planned missionary training school and house of prayer in Bethlehem has ignited opposition from neighbours concerned at the effect of a development that could inject about 19 times the intensity of people expected in Tauranga's lifestyle rural residential zone.

Bethlehem Mission Trust has applied to establish a campus for training 110 missionaries plus a multi-purpose building to be used primarily by the Tauranga House of Prayer.

The application said there would be 265 people at any one time on site from Monday to Friday, rising to 285 on Saturday and dropping to 175 on Sunday. The 30 opponents included the neighbouring Bethlehem College, with 21 submitters in support.

The trust, a partnership of Youth With a Mission and Tauranga House of Prayer, wants to provide a campus for students and members of the community who had a "shared vision for Christian education and prayer". They currently operated from other sites in Tauranga.


Youth With a Mission's trainee missionaries would stay in four on-site hostels and the upstairs portion of the existing two-storey house.

Trustee Marty Emmett said the House of Prayer's 250-seat multi-purpose building would not be a church but a place where Christians of any denomination could participate in prayer. Missionary students would use it for prayer and Bible studies.

The central part of the 1.12-hectare site would feature a new two-storey building holding a communal dining area and kitchen on the ground floor and teaching space on the first floor.

Mr Emmett said the House of Prayer began in Tauranga in 2006 and the missionary training school in 2008. Student missionaries were mainly from overseas and spent 11 weeks studying in Tauranga before being sent on eight weeks of outreach training in New Zealand and overseas.

They were about to send trainee missionaries to the South Island, East Asia, Nepal and Jordan.

The site comprised three rural-resident zoned properties between Bethlehem College's sports fields and Waiawa Lane's rural-residential subdivision.

We feel ours and our neighbours' lifestyles would be compromised.


Opponents of the application included the Christian Education Trust which operated Bethlehem College. It said the student accommodation meant the Bethlehem Mission Trust's proposal would see the site being used 24/7 each day.

"Given the scale, intensity of development and range of activities proposed, this will generate much activity on the site and on the local roading network at all times of the day ... there is the potential for significant adverse effects on the existing environment that may not easily be mitigated, remedied or avoided."

The college said rural-residential zones anticipated small-scale, home-based activities and homestays as ancillary activities, rather than high-intensity student accommodation.

It was concerned that any future development plans for the college campus may be adversely affected if the Bethlehem Mission Trust's plan went ahead in its current form.

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Waiawa Lane residents Jonathan and Yen Stewart said they built their home with the understanding they would be living in a quiet neighbourhood.

"We feel ours and our neighbours' lifestyles would be compromised," they said.

Mr Stewart said the proposal that provided for up to 285 people on a 1.12ha site was 19 times the intensity of development expected in the rural-residential zone. This was based on an average occupation of five people for each of the three properties.

"We suggest the Bethlehem Mission Trust finds a more suitable alternative site ... a site which allows for this kind of intensity and does not adversely affect neighbours."

Supporters of the application included the Abundant Life Church which said the Bethlehem Mission Trust was focused on training and equipping young people to volunteer and serve in the community.

It aligned with organisations that provided assistance over a wide spectrum including working with homeless, the elderly, at-risk children, disadvantaged and the mentally and physically challenged.

Another supporter, Dr Murray Hay of Bethlehem Family Doctors, said the purpose fitted the training and educational facilities of the adjoining college campus.

It would be situated on the southern edge of a natural dip in land contours that provided a place for educational and healthcare businesses, with residential dwellings on either side of the dip.

Three days have been set aside for the council hearing, starting May 31.

Project at a glance
Location: 63-65 Moffat Rd
Site size: 11,254 sq m
Proposed buildings: Four hostels, kitchen and classroom block, prayer and lounge/cafe centre