Tauranga's housing shortage has fuelled speculation the city's racecourse is part of a Government-led initiative to explore development opportunities.
Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford said the Government was exploring such opportunities, ''especially in Tauranga where there is a dire need for more houses.''
Twyford was responding to speculation that Tauranga Racecourse was one of the areas of Crown-owned land being looked at by the Government for its KiwiBuild housing programme.
Twyford told the Bay of Plenty Times in a statement that he was not in a position to comment, other than to say the Government was exploring housing and urban development opportunities. He also would not comment on what, if any, Crown-owned land was being considered.
The racecourse at Greerton occupied 34 hectares of an 83-hectare block of land that was also home to the Tauranga Golf Club. The two clubs leased the land from the Crown and were members of a trust that administered the block.
Tauranga Labour List MP Jan Tinetti said the suggestion of using the reserve for housing was raised as a possibility at a joint councils meeting with Mr Twyford on April 18 this year.
Nothing had been raised with her personally since then and she said it would need a lot of discussion before any decision was made.
The Government has committed $2 billion for KiwiBuild, a programme that aimed to deliver 100,000 affordable, quality homes for first home buyers over the next decade.
Racing Tauranga chairman Rob Weatherley said the racecourse speculation was rife but the club had not officially been approached.
The club had 21 years left on its 33-year lease and it would oppose any move to break the lease. The racecourse hosted 12 thoroughbred gallops meetings a year and one trotting meeting.
''We want to stay where we are.''
Graham Cathie, chairman of the golf club and Racecourse Reserve Charitable Trust, warned there would be a significant push-back. It was ridiculous that a city like Tauranga which had minimum public space risked turning what little was left into low-cost housing, he said.
When the land was given to the Government, it was envisaged it would be a public reserve in perpetuity.
''The trust sees it as a public reserve and encourages people to use it," Cathie said.
He said there had been no official correspondence from the Government.
Tauranga's MP and Opposition Leader Simon Bridges said he was aware of the speculation and did not agree with it.
''I understand the need to build more houses but you only get these amenities close to the city once. If you moved the racecourse, where would it go.''
Bridges said there was plenty of room for new houses at Papamoa East and a really important question for Tauranga was whether the Housing Infrastructure Fund would go ahead.
Larry Baldock, the chairman of the council's City Transformation Committee, declined to comment except to say it had not been on the committee's agenda.
Tauranga Mayor Greg Brownless said he had heard about it but did not think there was anything formal. It was not council land and the Government would have to jump through a lot of hoops.
Tauranga Racecourse Reserve
- Gazetted in 1846.
- Set aside as a racecourse and recreation reserve.
- Racing leased 34 ha and the golf club 45 ha.