People want to live in Tararua and Covid-19 has not changed that. Evidence is clearly seen from the rise in requests for building consents since the start of the year. Over the lockdown it has continued.

Tararua District Council Building Consent Team staff have worked hard over the lockdown and records show that a total of 27 consents have been issued for housing this year. On top of this another nine are pending and a number more are in the pipeline.

When many council departments shut down during alert level 4 lockdown, the eight-strong Building Consent Team worked at home to continue the process of giving approval to building proposals.

Team Leader Russell Palmer said unlike other councils his staff were already computer savvy and this paid off when they uplifted their already functioning laptops and took them home. Only the physical inspection of the site could not be carried out and the team did that once level 3 started.

Advertisement

Council CEO Blair King said the consent team was able to save six weeks of delay meaning as soon as Level Two began draughtsmen and tradies could start projects. "They did a wonderful job," he said.

Russell Palmer says requests for building permits are Tararua wide with Pahiatua leading the way, developments in Pitt St, Tiraumea Rd and Kauri Place approved. Dannevirke has a number of sites including a block of five in Ruahine Street with Woodville having several in McLean St.

Eketahuna, Akitio and Herbertville have developments approved, the latter complicated by also having Horizons consents under the RMA.

He says reasons for the huge increase in demand include city dwellers keen to live in the rural environment, farmers retiring to town, locals wanting to scale up or move closer to facilities like medical and retail and others wanting to capitalise on the building of the new highway. People are prepared to travel," he said citing Eketahuna being favoured over Carterton and Masterton for price.

There is a real variety of dwelling with 17 large dwellings (over 120sq.metres floor area) approved and four pending, four smaller units and 11 relocatable buildings approved or pending.

He said some of the latter have been transported in by Brittons or Central House Removals and several are prefabricated houses like those of Presidential Homes of Palmerston North – favoured by the government to help with the housing shortage.

Many of the requests are from individuals wanting to build their own home often helped by a developer who arranges the services and consent. Then it is over to local builders and tradies to develop the site. A few franchise companies like GJ Gardner and Platinum Homes offer the complete "turnkey" package. There are even container homes in the mix.

Russell Palmer says the shortage of tradesmen will hold up the building process in Tararua as there are 39 in Tararua and he pleads for more of those who have lost their jobs with big companies like Fletchers to come down to Tararua to live and work.

Advertisement

There is not yet a drain on Tararua finances to service these developments as most new sites are "infill" meaning they are often on a street with services already. "There are lots of quarter-acre sections which are being subdivided," he said or old houses demolished for flats.

Tararua District Councillors voted $80,000 last year to begin investigating available sites and the possibility of sites for subdivisions. "These are expensive to construct and there are plenty of infill sites still available," said Palmer.