Tauranga is growing faster than city planners ever predicted, raising questions about what infrastructure will be needed to keep up.

Growth projections which underpin SmartGrowth - the blueprint for Tauranga's development - have been exceeded by nearly 1000 new homes during the past 4 1/2 years, which was the equivalent of 2500 new residents.

Housing consents issued by the Tauranga City Council to the end of last year were running 20 per cent higher than the 5000 new homes anticipated by the Bay's over-arching planning bible.

However, Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby is not panicking yet that the market is sprinting ahead of SmartGrowth.

He said it was a little too early to tell, although he expected the slight dip in home building over the past 12 months to pick up with market expectations that interest rates had peaked and would be starting to drop.

Mr Crosby said the building blocks of SmartGrowth were about where growth would occur.

It was the pace of intensification that was the issue.

"If the market was constantly moving ahead of SmartGrowth then we would need to rethink our timeframe for delivering infrastructure."

The rate at which Tauranga was developing ahead of SmartGrowth's "medium" growth outlook was being outlined to a council meeting today.

Papamoa led the city's five growth areas in terms of the number of new homes but the pace of development in Ohauiti completely defied predictions.

Instead of the 166 new homes expected to be built there, the total was three times this number - 508.

By comparison, Papamoa's 1920 new homes were about a third higher than SmartGrowth projections.

Pyes Pa was the other strong performer. Its 590 new homes were 210 more than expected.

The poorest performer from Tauranga's urban growth areas was Bethlehem. Instead of the 770 new homes expected by SmartGrowth, only 630 were built, nearly 20 per cent fewer.

Predictions were spot on for Welcome Bay - about 350 new homes.

Infill development along the well-established areas of Tauranga's coastal strip was 21 per cent higher than projected, reflecting the growth of apartments. Slightly more than 900 homes were built, compared with 750 forecast. Development lagged slightly behind expectations for the rest of the city's established suburbs, with about 1050 new homes built over the 4 1/2 years.

Despite the overall upward trend, the statistics also showed that Papamoa's growth rate had dropped last year. Development in Bethlehem and Tauranga also slowed. In contrast, Pyes Pa showed a big surge.

Mr Crosby said the challenge for Tauranga was to deliver infrastructure on time.

Leo Mangos, a spokesman for the newly formed rates protest group CAT (Citizens Advocacy of Tauranga), was positive about the rapid growth, saying Tauranga should welcome new residents who would spread the rating base.

Houses built in the past 4 1/2 years:

* Ohauiti - 508

* Papamoa - 1920

* Pyes Pa - 590

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES