Earthworks on a $1 billion housing and waterway recreation park development at Hamilton's northern gateway will start later this year after the greenlight from independent commissioners.
Developers Hamilton's Perry Group said commissioners had approved the family-owned company's private plan change application to change industrial zoning to residential on 50 hectares of land beside the Waikato River at Horotiu.
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The development will deliver mixed-type housing including at least 10 per cent affordable housing and a village centre with cafes, restaurants, hotels around lakes-based recreation activities.
Perry Group chief executive Richard Coventry said it had been a long and at times painstaking journey to this all clear point, with the company first applying for a private plan change, then a special housing area application initially approved by the Hamilton City Council but declined by the Government, then returning to a private plan change process.
Perry Group chairman Simon Perry said the vision for Te Awa Lakes was to bring people together through recreation and to promote a healthy lifestyle.
"We love the Waikato and we want Te Awa Lakes to celebrate the Waikato River and rejuvenate it both environmentally and recreationally," said Perry, whose family has long supported Waikato growth through philanthropy and community developments.
More than 1000 homes will be built in the first stage of the master-planned development with 1500 proposed in total.
The development is seen as an anchor for further recreational activity projects along the Waikato River and to the north, Perry said. It is also seen as a first step of the Hamilton to Auckland (H2A) corridor strategy endorsed by the Government and a key to unlocking the potential of the Waikato region.
Official 2019 study results showed the region needed 51,000 more houses in the next 25 years and a shortfall of 7500 homes, 4500 of which were in Hamilton alone.
Perry's plan change application, heard by commissioners in November, attracted 61 submissions, 42 generally supporting it because it would create an attractive northern gateway to Hamilton and support the Te Awa River cycleway.
Supporters said industrial activity was not the best look or use for the site, which was once pastoral but in 1995 became a sand quarry.
All sand processing stopped in 2017 and the site has been vacant since.
The idea of a water park with associated planned visitor facilities and the likely economic and new job benefits were also attractive said supporters, who believed the proposal was more compatible with the Waikato River environment.
Opponents were neighbouring established industrial operators including Fonterra, Ports of Auckland, Open Country Dairy and meat company Affco, who were concerned new residents would complain about industrial activity (reverse sensitivity), about a perceived threat to their economic viability and investment decisions, and that approval would set a precedent for further changes in the area.