Rotorua's spatial plan is one step closer after discussions at a council committee meeting today.

The plan went out for consultation at the end of last year and today the Strategy, Policy and Finance Committee discussed the key concerns raised through consultation.

They were how it had been determined Rotorua was high growth, and around proposed development at Lake Ōkareka.

Rotorua Lakes Council's strategic development manager Portia McKenzie presented a report to the committee.

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"The spatial plan is not just a land use plan or growth area for our city. It covers quite a wide range of topics," McKenzie said.

"It's about saying 'who are we as a future community and what do we want our community to look like, what do we want to protect for our future generations'?"

One of the issues identified by submitters on the draft plan was around population growth projections and assumptions. A range of submitters questioned the need for 17,000 future homes over 30 years.

The plan adopts a high growth scenario, meaning it makes plans for a population of 100,000.

"We don't know what the future's going to look like but if we were to get to 100,000, what would we like our city to look like?" McKenzie said.

"We've seen growth in Tauranga, we've seen growth in Hamilton and we are saying we want to be prepared and ready should that growth happen here."

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Committee member Phil Thomass said population growth wasn't aspirational but the spatial plan should be.

"People are coming here because they don't want to be in Auckland. This gives us the opportunity to shape where we want industries, where we want houses," he said.

"It isn't a blueprint for development, it's more about how we could reshape the city."

The committee decided to ask for more clarity around why the high growth scenario was selected.

The other issue was the proposed development at Lake Ōkareka with many submitters opposing future growth on land there.

McKenzie said the plan was simply identifying areas for potential growth.

"We must make sure growth is carefully considered in these areas."

The concerns raised in consultation centred around the suitability of the land for development, whether it was needed and potential impact on the area's natural character.

"The spatial plan doesn't say we can go and do this right now. It says we need to have another conversation about this," McKenzie said.

Thomass said Ōkareka was different from other lakes in that it had a high number of permanent residents.

The committee recommended the growth area in Lake Ōkareka be re-categorised from "now" to "next" to allow time to consider the potential environmental and recreational outcomes as well as natural hazards within a Lakes A zone review.

This would involve community consultation.

Other recommendations were to include assessments of farming and forestry in any actual land use changes in the spatial plan, and recommend the final spatial plan be created, with minor edits, and presented to the council for adoption.

Staff were also asked to report back on timeframes for the Lakes A Zone review.

Councillor Karen Hunt said the spatial plan was about telling a story.

"Our spatial plan is an opportunity for those who live here and those who may choose to live here to actually get a feel for what that story is, and to get a taste for where we're going," she said.

"This is a guiding document and if it doesn't carry that weight it is going to be open for changes and for improvements, but this is a really good start."

The key areas considered in the plan are; building homes, creating thriving neighbourhoods, playgrounds and environment, iwi aspirations, the inner city, jobs and infrastructure.

From here council staff will finalise the document then take it to the full council for adoption, possibly by August.

What is a spatial plan?
- A building block for future planning and decision-making.
- It feeds into future annual plans, long-term plans and district plans and provides guidance for the development of infrastructure.
- It can be used by other organisations to determine growth. Eg, by the Ministry of Education to determine if new schools are needed.
- A guiding document.
- It should include economic, social, cultural and environmental components.