Ngongotaha is a unique village with a primary school, shops, a post office and a cafe popular with locals and travellers. The views over the lake, Ngongotaha mountain and the Waiteti hill are stunning. The village is what it is today because the residents are intimately involved in its development.
Rotorua Lakes Council has bypassed the consultation process to impose mass low-cost housing on the village, changing its character forever. Under the Special Housing Accord legislation, the council has fast-tracked one developer's plan for 190 homes bordered by the Waiteti stream and Ngongotaha Rd. Another development of 130 houses on the other side of the stream is being actively encouraged. Many will be semi-detached one and two-bedroom houses, half the size of the average home in Rotorua and most with little land.
Council was warned by iwi representatives at the recent Long Term Plan meeting in Ngongotaha that they had not been consulted and had little faith in a council that had ignored their voice in the past about their traditional land and freshwater resources. Council should back off their political ambitions and engage in serious discussion with the locals.
Will the houses be truly affordable or snapped up by landlords? How will Ngongotaha cope with the consequences of low-income housing, such as increased crime? How will the traffic congestion at peak times be managed? The RLC led by mayor Steve Chadwick is bypassing community consultation so it will go ahead unless we speak up.
On March 20 I attended a meeting in Ngongotaha held by the Rotorua Lakes Council (RLC) and the few who were there wanted to talk about the mayor's plan to build houses in the Waiteti catchment. Council staff talked about the Long Term Plan but did not appear to know about the housing plan! Equally blind-sided were three Maori spokespeople whose iwi had not been consulted. They were concerned at the probable impact of development on their traditional land and freshwater resources.
Keen to fulfill her election promises the mayor has seized on the previous Government's legislation to provide "Special Housing Areas" which the old Housing Minister Nick Smith had included in his dismal performance to deal with housing in NZ without having to consult the community. I immediately thought of the previous council's feeble handling of the "Swampland" subdivision on Western Rd.
I note that Gina Rangi (Maori group manager) at the council enjoyed talking to Barack Obama about "leadership and community". She might like to offer some advice to the mayor and council about how to win friends, influence people and do the right thing in a democracy, in Ngongotaha.
Reynold Macpherson [Letters, March 23] offers generous praise for our new library.
His praise includes "ambiance, friendly staff, modernity and open plan". I agree with him and could add great books, easy access, good computer centre and an amazing magazine display etc.
I should also offer my apologies to council. When first proposed, I could not see how a health hub and a library could exist together, and submitted against the proposal. I was wrong, the health hub is in fact a discreet occupier of the refurbished building. Congratulations to councillor Karen Hunt and council.
There is a part of Macpherson's letter however, that puzzles me. He complains of "culturally offensive signage". I think that all signs are in Maori and English, surely our two dominant and most accepted languages that are used in public places. Perhaps he could explain just what is offensive about the signs in our library?
Before Rotorua held its first - and controversial, mud festival the council budgeted $500,000 of ratepayers' money to cover this. Because the loss was a mere $460,000, council regarded the festival as a success, even though, without the freebie tickets for locals, the attendance would have been pitiful.
Why then, do those councillors and executives whose harebrained concept the festival was, want to repeat the failure this year? Why do they want a repeat dose of mud on their faces, particularly as mud sticks?
Maybe it would be different if the loss was to come from their pockets, not from the bottomless pockets of ratepayers.