The Government plans to build 350 homes on Rotorua land it rejected for a smaller private development about four years ago.
A Ministry of Housing and Urban Development spokesman said it bought 15.9 hectares at 31 Ngongotahā Rd to provide a mixed development of affordable housing for the private market and public housing.
The ministry would not reveal the purchase price because it was commercially sensitive and was in the process of finding a development partner for the site.
It had entered into a memorandum of understanding with Watchman Residential to progress design and consenting works.
Site works would begin late next year if the necessary consents were secured, with work continuing throughout 2025.
But the move has angered opponents of the original planned development of 190 homes, first proposed in 2018.
Developer Martin Schilt’s plans were downsized to up to 80 lots as a Special Housing Area but in August 2019, Housing Minister Megan Woods rejected the plans. Documents obtained under the Official Information Act then “highlighted several issues” including a reasonably complex site, proximity to Waitetī Stream, and its potential to increase flood hazard to downstream properties.
Rotorua MP Todd McClay told the Rotorua Daily Post that he questioned why the Government could develop there but the private sector could not.
Woods said today that ensuring Rotorua had better and more sustainable housing outcomes for its people was key to the city’s Housing Accord, signed by the Government and iwi parties late last year.
Rotorua had experienced significant population growth in recent years with more than 9000 people added since 2013, but only 1200 private homes had been built, along with a net loss of public homes under the last National Government, she said.
“This has created significant demand for emergency housing. The 350-home development on Ngongotahā Rd is a key part of the Government’s plan to address the significant housing shortage in Rotorua and reduce the number of people living in emergency housing. Without developments like this, the reliance on emergency housing in Rotorua will continue.”
Woods said that since 31 Ngongotahā Rd was declined as a Special Housing Area, further investigations had been completed by engineering and environmental consultants.
“Flood assessments and hydraulic modelling has been completed on the part of the site that is subject to flooding. Through these assessments, feasible solutions have been identified to mitigate flooding issues and enable residential development. Further design and modelling is now under way, this will be peer-reviewed and then assessed under the resource consent application process.”
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development spokesman said Watchman Residential had a project team of consultants working with local councils and the Ministry for the Environment on consenting applications and requirements.
“It’s in everyone’s interests to see a development that will enhance the community. More housing is a solution to housing stress and related community impacts. In recent decades, New Zealand has failed to build enough houses and we need to build more homes to catch up on decades of undersupply.”
A public meeting about the development is planned for next Thursday evening at the Ngongotahā Community Hall and will be fronted by the housing ministry’s deputy chief executive Ben Dalton.
Watchman is behind the Mountview Green residential housing development in Rotorua that included some KiwiBuild homes. It was approached for comment.
McClay said, in his opinion, if the Government had kept out of the way five years ago, “we would have those houses and there would not be so much pressure on Rotorua”.
“Now by increasing the number of houses by 400 per cent, they need to address the community’s concerns for this project to have any chance of being accepted. It’s imperative.”
Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers Association chairman Reynold Macpherson said the about-face was, in his view, “appalling” and people had been contacting him expressing concerns because there were “massive objections” in 2018.
“There is a realisation that there is a shortage of housing but on the other hand, it looks like it could be terraced housing to double the number first proposed in 2018. Now, this all comes as fresh news and people in the Ngongotahā area are appalled, absolutely appalled that they could go back and revisit this.”
Macpherson said the association had asked for the ministry to attend its public meeting to explain what it wanted to do and to listen to the people.
Ngati Ngararanui trustee Guy Ngatai said the Ngongotahā hapū was also deeply concerned.
Rotorua Lakes Council district development chief executive Jean-Paul Gaston said the council had a regulatory role and helped all developers who sought pre-consent application meetings with guidance on its District Plan.
Council staff had a pre-application meeting with the developer for this site regarding District Plan rules and no resource consent application had as yet been received, he said.
“If an application is received, it will go through the normal consenting process. Research over a number of years has confirmed Rotorua has acute housing needs and this relates to all types of housing, including smaller housing options, affordable housing and social housing.”
Gaston said whether public notification and consultation would be needed would, as always, be considered as part of the consent process.
“Rotorua is in need of more homes of all types and 350 homes would be a significant development that would contribute to reducing Rotorua’s critical housing shortage. We have a deficit of about 1800 homes which has directly contributed to a significant increase in rent and house prices during the past few years.
“Our assessment has been that we need 6000 more homes to accommodate growth and the changing needs of our population over the next decade. For example, an ageing population means we will need more, smaller homes.”
- Where: Ngongotahā Community Hall
- When: January 26 from 5.30pm - 7.30pm.
- What: Hosted by RDRR and fronted by Ministry of Housing and Urban Development to discuss proposed development at 31 Ngongotahā Rd
Timeline of 31 Ngongotahā Rd
- March 2018: 190-lot special housing development proposed. Council votes to recommend the site as a Special Housing Area to the Housing Minister.
- April 2018: Ngongotahā residents vow to fight the development, saying it will congest roads, swamp the local school and destroy the village’s character. Council officers host a public meeting and reassure residents the village’s infrastructure will cope.
- May 2018: Resident urges council to “pull the plug”.
- March 2019: Formal application still not finished, Special Housing Areas Act due to expire in September. Community still opposed.
- April 2019: Application sent to Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.
- June 2019: Proposal cut from 190 lots to 80-100. Iwi leaders support project.
- August 2019: Application declined by Minister Megan Woods. Council criticises decision.
- August 2019: Briefing obtained under Official Information Act shows decisions related to flood risks, stormwater and the potential to exacerbate congestion through Ngongotahā.