A Kerikeri lobby group is urging the Far North District Council to make developers pay part of the cost of infrastructure upgrades instead of leaving ratepayers to shoulder the bill for rapid growth.

Most councils make developers contribute towards the cost of roads, footpaths, sewerage and water required for new subdivisions or commercial buildings.

The Far North scrapped development contributions in 2015 to encourage investment in what was then an economic backwater.

Since then, however, parts of the district have started booming, putting pressure on basic infrastructure and ratepayers' ability to pay for upgrades. Kerikeri's new sewerage plant is likely to reach capacity sooner than planned and water could run short this summer thanks to a combination of a fast-growing population, predicted low rainfall and an algal bloom in a key reservoir.


David Clendon, a former Green MP and chairman of lobby group Vision Kerikeri, said the council was struggling to pay for infrastructure but wasn't tapping into a "perfectly legitimate" source of funding.

He understood the charges had been halted when the district had zero growth and "things were looking a bit dire".

"But that is not the situation now. Our problem now is unplanned growth."

With several major developments under way it was "money going begging that will otherwise come out of ratepayers' pockets".

Development contributions were debated at the October council meeting, with councillor Ann Court saying Kerikeri in particular had seen a "seismic shift" in the past six months, and problems were looming with the town's water supply for drinking and firefighting.

Kerikeri Retirement Village had warned the council about an infrastructure deficit caused by the "silver tsunami" — an explosion in the number of elderly residents — and aged care firm Arvida had announced plans for a major retirement village.

Mayor John Carter said the district was still feeling the effects of the economic downturn when councillors voted to scrap development contributions three years ago.

"Now it's time for us to go back and have a serious discussion about it."


He had asked for a report, due to be completed later this month, which would include development contributions as part of a wider review of rates and facilities.

A report last year by CouncilMARK, which compares the country's local authorities, said a policy of not charging development contributions added to financial pressure on the council.

Development contributions are, however, are blamed by some for discouraging investment and driving up property prices. Concerns that contributions were being used to fund projects which had little to do with the developments that paid them led to a law change in 2014.

According to the Department of Internal Affairs, 51 of New Zealand's 67 territorial authorities currently charge development contributions or similar levies.

In Whangarei District, development contributions are levied on all commercial buildings, subdivisions and second dwellings.

A Far North District Council spokesman said changing the development contribution policy would require a policy review, a proposal to be written up, public consultation, then adoption alongside the Long Term Plan.

"There is an ongoing conversation between staff and councillors about the current development contribution policy. However, there is no clear path forward at this stage."