Two Tauranga developers have slammed a major change in city planning rules aimed at tackling flood risks, with one saying the council has taken a "sledgehammer" approach.
A four-day hearing of submissions on Tauranga City Council's proposed Plan Change 27 - Flooding from intense rainfall, began yesterday before four independent commissioners via video conference.
The council notified the plan change about a year ago, giving it immediate legal effect.
At the same time, it released new flood maps for the city based on a one-in-100-year storms and accounting for climate change forecasts.
The maps deemed 30,400 properties at risk of flooding - thousands more than under the previous modelling.
The council says Plan Change 27 aims to manage flood risks from intense rainfall across the city and protect lives, property and infrastructure in line with its natural hazard-related obligations under the Bay of Plenty Regional Policy Statement.
The new rules include restrictions for developing new and existing properties.
At yesterday's hearing, two developers told commissioners the plan change should not apply to the areas they were midway through developing.
Nathan York of Bluehaven, a major development company in Wairakei/Pāpāmoa East, said it did not recognise the "extensive work" flood mitigation work already undertaken for Bluehaven's developments.
"It feels as though there has been a sledgehammer approach to policy drafting and no acknowledgement of the work we've got in behind our development aspirations."
York said Bluehaven had $300,000 worth of modelling done for its Waiarakei developments, in consultation with the council, but he believed the plan change would trigger a need to redo that work.
"We need to rely on what we've done and has been accepted by council.
"Time, dollars, frustration, resources – not what's needed or required given the extensive work we've already done."
He said since the plan change was legally enacted, his team was seeing issues crop up in land buyers' building consents.
"When we have sold stuff on the basis of extensive modelling then purchaser comes back to us and says what the heck is this, to then go and relitigate is problematic."
Grant Downing from Element IMF, developer of the Tauriko Industrial Estate, echoed that issue.
Both developers raised general concerns about the accuracy of the council's modelling, with York saying it was based on old land forms and Downing saying it showed "weird" variances from the developer's own modelling.
Downing said Element IMF had invested "tens of millions" to mitigate flood risk "in line with the standards of the day" and this was a key part of the investment certainty it aimed to offer buyers.
"Plan Change 27 seriously undermined that strategy.
"You haven't got a risk like in one of older suburbs where there's nothing like the stormwater infrastructure we have now."
He said there had been "several instances" where purchasers had issues getting a building consent since the proposed plan change was given legal effect, resulting in delays and extra costs.
"[They] get knocked back because they have a blue or purple blight on their property."
"We don't think Plan Change 27 should be applicable to us now and at least there should be some sort of transitional process in place for us."
Commissioners have asked the council to provide examples of consents processed since the plan change was given effect.
Team leader of city planning Janine Speedy said they were pulling those together. She said the processes had been refined over the past year.
Most of the morning on day one of the hearing was taken up by submissions from council staff, who were questioned by the commissioners.
One presentation touched on a core issue raised by several of the 1002 written submissions lodged for the plan change.
They argued the council should be improving its stormwater network rather than foisting new regulations on homeowners. Some accused the council of "abdicating" its infrastructure responsibilities.
Team leader of planning projects Campbell Larking said major flooding in 2005, 2009, 2011 and 2013 prompted the council to reassess its approach to stormwater risk.
The council did a cost-benefit analysis for delivering the "significant" stormwater infrastructure upgrades it found were needed to reduce risks to the safety of people and buildings in developed areas of the city.
"The investment required and associated increased rates rises, operational costs and debt was deemed unjustifiable in terms of the benefits that would be achieved."
He said the council decided an infrastructure-led solution was "unacceptable" because of long timeframes and an "unreasonable" financial burden on the community.
The council pursued an "integrated" strategy including regulation, education, a level of service focusing on safety, reserving money for flood research and response, and continued investment in the stormwater network with minor improvements.
The panel of commissioners is Richard Knott, Vicki Morrison-Shaw, Fraser Campbell and chairman David Hill.
The hearing is set down to continue until Friday, after which the commissioners are expected to prepare recommendations for the council.
A final decision on the plan change is expected this month or early next year.