A group of around 20 residents from Parua Bay and Whangārei Heads made a last ditch effort to "hit the pause button" on a plan change relating to their neighbourhood.

The group packed into the public gallery at Whangārei District Council's Planning and Development Committee meeting yesterday, but were too late to halt the change, which now allows for subdivision down to 500 sq m.

The committee was considering the approval of the rural areas, strategic rural industry environment, rural urban expansion environment and mineral plan changes.

It was also considering the approval of the rural production environment, rural village environment and rural living environment plan changes in part.

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Parua Bay Residents and Ratepayers Association chairwoman Marnie Muirhead alluded to a petition, presented to the council in December, against high density housing that would happen in Parua Bay if the plan change went ahead. It had close to 400 signatures.

"The community still remains strongly opposed to that," she said.

Their concerns largely relate to the zoning of 21 hectares of land on either side of Whangārei Heads Rd, between Kiteone Rd and Whangārei Heads Rd.

It is now zoned Rural Living Residential Environment and with full reticulation, subdivided lots can be a minimum of 500 sq m.

Parua Bay Residents and Ratepayers Association chairwoman Marnie Muirhead addresses the committee meeting. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Parua Bay Residents and Ratepayers Association chairwoman Marnie Muirhead addresses the committee meeting. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Muirhead said high density housing would completely destroy the character and the environment of the "rural, seaside village".

She said their other concern was with the infrastructure that should support the current population, never mind growth.

"The traffic, safety, both vehicular and pedestrian in our growing village is certainly a paramount issue."

"The traffic on Whangārei Heads Rd has certainly increased with increased population and the roading has not been upgraded to accommodate that increased traffic."

"We think it would be a mistake to allow high density housing to develop in our community without addressing these infrastructure issues."

She said they had established a working group with councillor [Greg] Innes to address these issues, and talk about things like spatial planning.

"We're not against development, we want development but it has to be careful, thought out and planned."

She acknowledged they had missed the legal opportunity to challenge the plan change, but said their association had only formed in December.

However District Plan manager Melissa McGrath said the environment court had ruled on the plan changes and as a result the provisions were operative.

The changes were before the committee yesterday as the final culmination of the appeal work which had gone on over the past 12 months.

"It has been a lengthy process of five years of rounds of consultation with the district, with the communities and with technical experts."

Council strategy manager Tony Horton said the council was proposing a spatial planning programme as part of the council's growth strategy.

The plan looks at the integration of the various functions the council has, and in particular planning and infrastructure investment.

It also looks through a design lens at things like community amenity, public space and what makes a community thrive.

He said it is done with the community. The growth strategy is planned to be finalised around July and then the spatial planning programme can start.

Horton said the biggest decision was determining the priority of which areas are done first.