A streamlined process for the Pukehangi Heights rezoning could potentially be a lifeline for Rotorua's housing crisis.
However, the streamlined process also gives the Environment Minister the final say on the plan change.
Rotorua Lakes Council opened the Pukehangi Heights plan change for public submissions earlier this month after the Ministry for the Environment approved a request to use a streamlined rezoning process.
• Council recommends Government process to free up land for housing in Pukehangi quickly
• Residential plans for farmland bordering Pukehangi, west of Rotorua
• Tenancy Tribunal finding gives Rotorua landlord possession, 229 days after 90-day notice issued
• Rotorua farm subdivision opens up 89 sections
The plan change, if successful, would see 160 hectares of farmland on the eastern edge of the Rotorua township rezoned from rural to residential and rural residential, allowing for a possible 700 new houses to be built.
A standard plan change process takes anywhere between seven months and upwards of two years compared with a timeframe of nine to ten-and-a-half months under a streamlined process.
One of the three landowners involved in the Pukehangi Heights plan change is happy with the decision to streamline the process.
Paul Sumner said he had been trying to do something with the parcel of land he owned for the past five years and was both relieved and happy to see progress being made.
"For five years I have been getting knocked back, which has been incredibly frustrating, so to have a way forward is great news."
Sumner described the old Lakes Council District Plan as "incumbent" and said it did not enable the council to do what they needed to do and, as a result, developers had been forced to do many things they didn't need to do, wasting a lot of time and money.
"This [streamlined process] will definitely fast-track things.
"I'm pretty happy with the result and I'm sure I'm not alone, a streamlined process should make most people [landowners, developers, builders and homeowners] in Rotorua happy going forward."
Given the need for additional land for housing, the Pukehangi Heights area had been signalled in the District and Spatial plans as being needed after 2021 but the city was growing faster than predicted.
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said Rotorua had a critical housing shortage and homes of all types were needed.
"Council is currently leading the development of a district housing plan, alongside Central Government and its agencies, landowners, developers and iwi. That is expected to provide short, medium and long-term options and solutions," Chadwick said.
"Pukehangi Heights is an area that has been flagged for residential development for some time now.
"Following on from initial community engagement that has already happened relating to this proposed plan change, locals are now able to have a say formally by making submissions and I encourage them to take the opportunity to do that."
Resource Management Act policy team lead Kate Dahm said housing in Rotorua was a priority for the council.
"We have been working proactively with landowners, hapu and regional council on the development of the plan change," Dahm said.
Professionals McDowell Real Estate co-owner Steve Lovegrove said a development the size of Pukehangi Heights (a potential 700 build sites) would be nothing short of phenomenal for Rotorua.
"The last six or eight years have seen large areas of modern urban expansion in most cities to alleviate the national housing shortage," Lovegrove said. "Rotorua has not bypassed that crisis."
"We have just come through the New Year and I would have expected to see a lot more properties offered to the local market but that hasn't happened. What that is saying to me is people aren't making the move, they're not transitioning properties.
"And the reason they are not transitioning is they have nowhere to go to."
Lovegrove said the opening up of a new development would allow all sorts of good things to happen to Rotorua.
"It would allow us to sustain the intake of people relocating here from big cities. It would demonstrate to people from outside of Rotorua that the city is progressive and growing because that's the flag that those large urban developments say.
"It would revitalise the city.
"The next most important part of that is, if we have more modern housing opening up at the top end of the housing market, it releases the older, first-time home buyer properties for first-time buyers or investors and we end up with an availability of less expensive homes and rentals.
"If we can open up that top end, we will unravel a whole lot of good things along the property ladder."
Information on the plan change, along with submission forms, is available on the council's website: letstalk.rotorualakescouncil.nz, and at council offices and Rotorua Library.
The submission period closes on February 20 this year.
Following the submission phase of the process, it is anticipated that hearings will be held towards the end of June, with a recommendations to be provided to the Minister for the Environment in September for a final decision.