A lobby group opposed to the construction of high density housing on an area used as a public park is calling on the Whangārei District Council to publicly notify the development when it receives a consent application.

Housing New Zealand intends to lodge a resource consent in the first quarter of next year to build state houses on a section of the 32,730sq m of land it bought at Puriri Park Rd, Maunu — a move bitterly opposed by residents nearby.

Correspondence obtained by Whangārei MP Dr Shane Reti under the Official Information Act shows HNZ is keen to build houses on sites under the minimum land requirement of 500sq m under council rules.

But HNZ's general manager asset development, Patrick Dougherty, said discussions earlier this year on potential redevelopment was based on an understanding that
WDC intended to revise its district plan, potentially to include greater density housing.

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However, he said the government agency was proceeding on the basis of the existing district plan.

"Housing New Zealand has to abide by the same resource consent rules as any other developer, and the decision over whether a resource consent application for the Puriri Park Rd site is notified or not will rest with Whangārei District Council, taking into account factors including the effects of development on neighbouring properties,'' Dougherty said.

Save Puriri Park committee member Dianne Reader said her members would continue to push for WDC to publicly notify the resource consent.

"We are acting on behalf of the whole of Whangārei that use the park, not just the local community," she said.

While the section of land HNZ bought for the development was commonly thought of as a park, it was actually owned by the Ministry of Education and was zoned for housing. WDC owns the public Puriri Park that borders the development land.

WDC chief executive Rob Forlong said there seemed to be an incorrect impression that council may have decided to review the urban environment parts of its district plan to enable higher density development to suit the Puriri Park project.

In 2016, he said WDC started reviewing the urban zones in the plan and that pre-consultation was publicly notified in June this year.

"The proposed changes to the urban section of the plan could allow higher density development, however, there is a lot of water to go under the bridge, and a lot of public consultation to take place on the district plan before any decisions can be made."

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Generally, Forlong said residential development on residentially-zoned land was allowed as of right without a resource consent.

If WDC received a resource consent application for the Puriri Park development, he said it would be processed fairly and in accord with the Resource Management Act implemented though the district plan.

Under the act, public notification is made if the effects of the proposal on the environment are assessed as being more than minor and written approvals of all those affected by the proposal haven't been obtained.

If the public is not notified, WDC only needs to notify those people who may be directly affected by it and only they can lodge a submission.

Reti said any talk of setting a new housing density precedent in Whangārei must have community input so that the people of the district and not HNZ determined the future shape of the city.