Time is running out to rush a Rotorua housing development through under the Special Housing Areas Act after news the act will expire in September.
A year ago today a housing development at 31 Ngongotahā Rd was launched by developers, contractors and Rotorua MP Todd McClay.
Rotorua Lakes Council had voted to recommend the site as a Special Housing Area (SHA) to the housing minister.
This week housing associate minister Jenny Salesa said usually the SHA process was expected to take three months.
However, one year on, a formal application to approve the SHA at 31 Ngongotahā Rd has still not been finished.
Property owner and developer Martin Schilt said the past year had been spent gathering reports on everything from traffic and archeology to geotechnical reports and flood levels but the clock was ticking.
An application was given to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development but the ministry requested further information about the flood plains and levels in the wake of the severe flooding on April 29.
"The April floods changed everything," Schilt said.
"We had to go back and redo all that work and that's taken longer than we were hoping. After the flood, we started again basically."
Schilt said the flood level report had just been finalised and work was being done on stormwater requirements.
"As we stand now, we can probably build on 65 per cent. If we moved a bit of dirt around we could increase that, I don't know, but we're working with the regional council and a company ... they will tell us what we can and can't do."
Areas which were unsuitable to build on would be used in another way such as for wetlands, Schilt said.
He aimed to have the full application in the hands of Central Government in the next six weeks, so a decision on the application could be made before September.
If given the green light it will become the first special housing area under Rotorua's Special Housing Accord, and likely the only one given the act's expiration.
If approved, Schilt would have to go back to Rotorua Lakes Council to apply for resource consent.
"I can't start digging the day after it gets approved. We have to plan the subdivision and get that submitted.
"Until we get that approval there's no point getting plans. We can't nail what it's going to look like."
Initial plans for the 16ha site included 190 dwellings. Schilt said that was still the aim but it could be slightly less depending on stormwater requirements.
Salesa told the Rotorua Daily Post some progress had been made on the application.
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, which investigates and recommends the establishment of SHAs based on the recommendations of territorial authorities like the Rotorua Lakes Council, has looked at the application.
Salesa said the request for further information about the site had resulted in a delay.
"Once [the ministry] has the additional information about the site, it will assess the SHA application and provide me with a briefing on whether or not to establish the SHA.
"From there it will go through a Parliamentary process to be finalised."
Salesa said the site at Ngongotahā Rd was the only potential Rotorua SHA recommended for consideration.
Rotorua Lakes Council's operations group manager Henry Weston said a second site in Ngongotahā was proposed but had not been sent to the housing minister for consideration, unlike the application for 31 Ngongotahā Rd.
"We are awaiting that information from the developer to then pass on to the minister's office," Weston said.
"Regardless of the decision made by the minister it will be up to the developer to decide if they will progress the proposed development. If the developer decided to proceed, all relevant consenting requirements would need to be met."
Weston said the streamlined part of the process was the consenting process which would come after the granting of SHA status.
Special Housing Areas
The Rotorua Housing Accord was signed on August 31. It was designed to fast-track the consent process to allow houses to be built quickly and was proposed to ease pressure on Rotorua's housing stock and address affordability issues.
In doing this it overrides the normal resource consent notification requirements allowing the council to recommend the establishment of special housing areas under the act.
No appeals can be made to a judicial entity once a decision is made, but a judicial review can be sought.
The accord was implemented under the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Act of 2013 which aimed to enhance housing affordability.
However, in February, the Government notified Rotorua Lakes Council that it had decided to allow the act to expire as scheduled.
It had been considering extending the legislation which was introduced in 2013 as a flagship policy of the previous Government to address housing supply and affordability.
Housing minister Phil Twyford this week said Special Housing Areas (SHAs) were always an interim measure.
While they had increased housing supply in some cases, they had not made housing more affordable and the costs outweighed the benefits, he said.
Twyford said the Government would not be revisiting its decision to drop the SHA legislation. It would be phased out to give councils time to progress SHAs already in the pipeline.
The legislation is set to expire on September 16, meaning no new SHAs will be established after that date.
Those set up before then will have two years to have their consents fast-tracked.
The accord set aspirational targets around the number of consents issued in a financial year.
For the 2017/18 year, the target was to consent 200 sections and 150 dwellings. In that time 159 sections were given consent and 153 dwellings were given consent.
The aspirational target for the 2018/19 financial year is 250 sections and 200 dwellings. Between July last year and February consent has been granted for 71 sections and 86 dwellings. There are about 200 more sections in the pipeline.