An estimated 790 new homes are on the horizon in Rotorua as a fast-tracked rezoning gets Government sign-off.
Rotorua's mayor says it is a step forward in helping the city's "critical housing shortage".
Environment Minister David Parker has approved a District Plan Change that will help enable development in Pukehāngi Heights, the Rotorua Lakes Council announced in a statement today.
Parker signed off the change in a letter to the council dated March 8, saying the council had met the requirements of the streamlined planning process.
The Pukehāngi Heights area is along the southwestern edge of the Rotorua township on the lower slopes of a landscape known as the caldera rim.
It was identified as a future growth area in the council's district plan in 2016 - picked for its proximity to the central city, good aspect and views and ease of access to existing infrastructure.
The plan change will rezone about 160 hectares of farmland southwest of Pukehangi Rd to a mixture of residential and rural residential areas.
Provisions for the change specify some areas can be used for low-density development and others for medium-density.
Pukehāngi Heights landowner Paul Sumner said he was happy with the decisions from the minister.
"This streamlined process is an improvement to the system for land development and that's got to be a good thing, not just for landowners but for council as well.
He said they were now waiting to get started on the next stages, getting through an application and consent process.
"What's planned for these developments is going to be really appealing.
"It's a substantial piece of natural land that's elevated and north-facing - aesthetically it will be a great place to live."
Working through the minister was a new process that cut down the time it would normally take to do a plan change.
The streamlined plan change process enabled the minister to approve a shortened but equally robust process under the Resource Management Act in a limited range of circumstances.
This includes where a proposal addresses a national direction - in this case, housing - or a significant community need.
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said the minister's decision was "good news" that would enable progress towards much-needed housing for the city.
"The Pukehāngi proposals are significant developments that will contribute to addressing the district's critical housing shortage.
"We won't see houses going up overnight but the decision is a significant step forward in terms of enabling these developments to progress."
Chadwick said the process was much faster than may have been the case under a normal plan change where appeals could see years added to the process.
The council could now work with the developers to progress consenting and stormwater management processes.
"We are committed to working in partnership with developers to get building under way as quickly as possible."
Since the use of the streamlined process was approved by the minister in January last year, the council has worked through two rounds of public submissions, followed by a hearing and the commissioners' recommendations to the minister.
With the rezoning approved, the council would work with landowners on the next steps towards progressing residential development.
Discharge and stormwater consents were required before development could occur.
Six general principles were established as part of the plan change process to guide development and address concerns raised by submitters.
They included the recognition, protection, and expression of cultural and archaeological values of the area, low-impact stormwater management, and excellent urban design outcomes.
As part of the process, the council engaged with tangata whenua, Te Arawa Lakes Trust, Bay of Plenty Regional Council and the wider Rotorua community.
Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Kearoa Ngāti Tuara chairwoman Robyn Bargh said Ngāti Kearoa Ngāti Tuarā have been actively involved in this plan change, along with Te Komiti Nui o Ngāti Whakaue and Te Arawa Lakes Trust.
She said they looked forward to continued work with the council and landowners to ensure recognition and protect the cultural history and sites.
She said they would also ensure future development did not impact water quality in the Mangakakahi and Utuhina streams or "lead to further degradation of Lake Rotorua".
The council said it was working across the district to support residential development to address the housing shortage.
Investing in infrastructure, partnering with the Government and using the streamlined plan change process were all part of the wider Housing Strategy that aims to unlock land and enable developers.
The plan change will become operative on March 27.
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