Plans for more than 800 new homes in Rotorua subdivisions have been announced since 2017 but only a handful have been built over the past two and a half years.
Real estate agents and developers have described the slow process of getting major subdivisions finished as "soul-destroying" and "extremely frustrating".
They blame the local council for holding up the process.
But Rotorua Lakes Council says it wants to see more housing in Rotorua and tries to work with developers to ensure the process is as smooth and timely as possible.
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According to Rotorua Lakes Council figures, 615 lots in major subdivisions have been through or are going through the consent process since the start of 2017.
That does not include minor subdivisions with just a few lots or people subdividing their section into two lots.
Titles have been issued in four subdivisions - Great West Rd, Baxendale Stage 1, Pioneer Rd and Marguerita St - totalling 57 lots.
Of those, just 16 lots have completed dwellings on them, with another 22 either under construction or with a building consent granted.
Civil works, which include earthworks and services such as stormwater, have started on three subdivisions, totalling 107 lots.
Four subdivisions were at the stage of resource consent being granted, with a total of 155 lots, while another five subdivisions, totalling 296 lots, were still waiting.
The council's figures do not include the 190 lots that were promised through Special Housing Area 1 on Ngongotaha Rd, announced in 2017.
That subdivision was to be developed through the Special Housing Accord, but the Government declined the application in August, even after the number of lots was reduced to 80.
When the application was denied, developer Martin Schilt told the Rotorua Daily Post he was "considering other options".
"There will be something there but it won't be entry-level houses, which is a huge slap in the face for Rotorua, I think ... we had the opportunity to do something really good."
Additional to the more than 800 lots announced, there are also 147 in pre-subdivision lodgement discussions that are confidential.
Bayleys Rotorua branch manager Beth Millard said the situation was frustrating, as subdivisions took years to come to fruition.
But she said there was hope as those subdivisions that had already been granted resource consent - some 460 of the 615 proposed lots - would be developed eventually.
"There are hold-ups in the consenting process which mean subdivisions can take years to be finished.
"All the lots in Stage 1 of our Baxendale subdivision were sold under the hammer prior to title and since then, it's been about 18 months waiting for the title to be granted. Before that, we were working with the developer for more than two years to get the subdivision moving.
"It's soul-destroying. You look at other cities growing and Rotorua needs that growth, too. We sold people their dreams but we end up at the mercy of the consent process and contractors."
Millard said stormwater was a major hurdle and the reason work had stalled on the Ashworth Villas subdivision - an upmarket, gated community planned for the corner of Malfroy Rd and Ranolf St.
"We have unconditional sales there but we're still waiting on resource consent because of stormwater. As soon as consent is granted, earthworks will begin."
Professionals McDowell Real Estate co-owner Steve Lovegrove said it was unclear what was holding up subdivisions from progressing once resource consent had been granted.
He said it could be a lack of confidence in the market stopping developers from pushing forward but he could see no reason for that lack of confidence.
"When you look to our neighbours in Tauranga and Hamilton, the housing developments seem to be continuous yet it's scarce in Rotorua. It's puzzling why that is, giving our growing population and increasing house prices."
Lovegrove said it was an "exceptionally frustrating situation" as the city urgently needed urban expansion.
"The demand seems to be there, we see people who want to build, want to upgrade, but we don't seem to see the tarseal being put down or street lights erected. It's mystifying to me as to why."
The Sunny Downs subdivision developer, who wished to remain anonymous, said he had resource consent for the development but it was "floundering on" stormwater and engineering reports.
His development, which originally proposed 89 lots, was reduced to 37 lots.
"Five years ago we essentially had approval to go ahead but we're no further along.
"We've prepared five engineering reports and all of those have been denied by the council. As soon as we can get approval, work will begin. The buck stops with the council, it's not the engineers and developers."
He believed the delays were caused by the city's stormwater network "not being up to scratch" but said his development would get across the line eventually.
Tremains Rotorua sales manager Malcolm Forsyth said trying to get a subdivision finished in Rotorua was "absolutely crazy".
Speaking about the 36-lot subdivision on Vaughan Rd, Forsyth said: "Buying the section was reasonably seamless, the marketing and selling of the lots were seamless but then the frustrations kick in."
He said he had seen a developer go around in circles with the council getting reports done.
"Geotechnical reports are done, then a peer review is requested which can take months. Then the council asks that the peer review be peer-reviewed.
"The process needs to be streamlined. I understand the council needs to protect everyone but it's unbelievably frustrating when people are screaming out for developments, people want to build. It doesn't need to be this hard."
Forsyth said "without a doubt" the delays were turning developers off Rotorua.
"There is land out there that's ripe for development but it will go undeveloped unless something changes in the council's processes."
Infrastructure group manager Stavros Michael said the council acknowledged that "in some cases the process may be seen as frustrating and protracted".
''However, each proposal is unique and the complexities of each vary, depending on what's proposed and the nature and location of the site which dictate what work is required before building can begin,'' he said.
"Council is responsible for ensuring developments meet legislated requirements and adequately address known risks and potential adverse impacts to safeguard the public and protect the environment."
Michael said the council worked hard to streamline its processes and encouraged developers to engage early so it could provide guidance ahead of applications being lodged "to minimise delays and the need to seek expert reviews of proposals".
Development was accelerating and standards were changing - driven by emerging legislation, national policy statements and engineering best practice - so the council had to keep refining and improving its processes.
"This challenge is not unique to Rotorua, it is something faced by all urban centres in New Zealand."
Once all concerns were met, consents could be issued subject to confirming detailed engineering plans that were yet to be provided.
"Those details need to be locked down before work can start."
Regarding stormwater, cited as one of the major hold-ups, Michael said effective management was guided by regional council requirements, the district's current network and the capacity of the "receiving environment" - where the rainwater ends up.
"The district's stormwater network was developed over many decades and community demand for a level of protection against flooding continues to increase due to climate change and increasing frequency and intensity of rainfall.
"Council's infrastructure improvement plan will increase capacity of the stormwater system but this will take time.
"Council must also consider whether the cost of upgrades needed to cater for developments should rest with all ratepayers or the development generating the additional loading."
In total, 379 dwellings have been issued building consents since the 2017/18 financial year.
Those consents include new homes being built to replace existing homes and homes that are built in Rotorua but relocated outside the district.