An urban growth partnership between the Government and Smartgrowth is the "easy bit", say developers looking to build big in the Western Bay.
After months of preparation, the formal partnership was announced by Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford yesterday.
As of October, Government ministers will have seats around the table - and voting rights - on Smartgrowth, a collective tasked with managing joined-up, long-term growth planning in the Western Bay of Plenty sub-region.
The 15-year-old collective includes the Tauranga, Western Bay and Bay of Plenty regional councils, tangata whenua and other community organisations, and now Ministers of the Crown.
It is tasked with leading the implementation of a $7-billion, 50-year plan mapping out transport and housing needs created though the Urban Form and Transport Initiative (UFTI) and signed off in July.
"It's great to see the partnership embracing urban intensification and a commitment to building a better transport system to get Tauranga moving," Twyford said in a statement.
An official signing ceremony was planned for October.
The partnership will be similar to one the Government announced in Waikato last year for the Hamilton-Auckland corridor (H2A).
Bay leaders told the Bay of Plenty Times the partnership would see Government ministers and officials gain a better understanding of the situation and challenges of managing growth in this region - and vice versa.
One example was a comment by an official involved in the Urban Form and Transport Initiative (UFTI) - a 50-100 year plan mapping out transport and housing needs signed off in July - that they now "know where Tauriko is".
Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell said officials knew where Te Tumu was too, and about the challenges in Hewletts Rd, Totara St and Hull Rd.
Those kinds of more intimate knowledge, he said, and a commitment to working together were an important part of working together to "future-proof" the sub-region.
He said it would not be clear which ministers would join the group until after the election, but it was likely to be those with portfolios in local government and urban development or the like.
Powell said the partnership would also create an opportunity for Smartgrowth to partner with Waikato authorities - who have a Future Proof Strategy for growth management - on a joined-up approach.
He wanted to see more focus on the Golden Triangle - Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga.
"These areas are highly connected and there is much to achieve by working together."
In his view, past planning for Tauranga had been good but the execution had been poor, and he wanted to change that, starting with the council's 10-year budget next year.
"If our Long-term Plan doesn't mirror the Smartgrowth plan we would have a problem."
Western Bay mayor Garry Webber said the long term-plans would be the first "proof in the pudding" of councils doing their bit for the partnership.
It was "critical" all parties agreed to fund implementation of the UFTI plan, and that would make the difference between the future and what Smartgrowth had been doing for the past 15 years, he said.
"That is the job of the partnership, to monitor performance."
Smartgrowth independent chairman Bill Wasley said in practical terms the partnership would help ministers understand when matters were coming up that needed policy changes or funding, and what issues were driving them.
"It is a more efficient approach."
The three leaders said relationship building was reflected in recent funding commitments from the Government. That included $900m for the Tauranga Northern Link, $45m for multimodal transport on Cameron Rd, $14m for urbanising Ōmokoroa, and and $18m for the Rangiuru Business Park.
Local developers and Tauranga's biggest social housing provider, Accessible Properties, praised the partnership as a good step forward.
Vicki McLaren, of Accessible Properties, said agreeing a strategy was the "easy bit".
"People will judge us on the results."
"The sub-region has some of the worst housing affordability outcomes in the country. Addressing this critical situation needs to be a priority outcome for the partnership."
She said the organisation was ready to work with others on action projects such as regeneration of Gate Pa (Pukehinahina Project) to increase supply and provide better, more affordable housing choices and pathways to home ownership.
"Tauranga's future depends on tangible action taken from today and this work provides a valuable blueprint."
Peter Cooney, director of Classic Group, said the development community had been pleading for councils and the Government to work together for some time.
"I would like to think that this forum actually achieves results and does not become another talkfest committee.
"It is important to set targets and timelines and actually adhere to these deadlines."
It was critical the people involved understood Tauranga's fundamental issues and commercial realities to avoid "unrealistic and unachievable outcomes".
"As far as housing is concerned they need to move quickly as Tauranga is facing some serious land shortages and the longer we wait the issues just keep compounding."
The planning was done but funding was needed.
Nathan York, chief executive of Bluehaven Group, said the partnership was heading in the right direction, "however the relatively easy part is done".
"The tougher gradient to climb is confirming the investment funding model and the execution of the plan.
"Without the necessary capital being applied in the right areas, we will be going backwards at a rate of knots."
The Government also has partnerships in Auckland and Queenstown, and is developing deals with Wellington and Christchurch.