Faster than expected growth is forcing Horowhenua District Council's hand in more ways than one.
On Wednesday it announced a master plan for the largest subdivision in decades to the east of Levin, which could be in the path of any Expressway. Council has asked NZTA for a quick decision on the Expressway route.
The proposed development is in an area known as Gladstone Green and has space for 2000 houses, to be build in the next 20 years.
The council says for this to work a decision needs to be made soon about the preferred route for the Expressway. Delay on an expressway decision isn't going to stop growth as the motorway out of Wellington to Otaki will bring more people to the region.
Horowhenua District Council has written to NZTA advising it of its plans for Gladstone Green and has called on it to provide clear timeframes for the re-evaluation process and expedite a decision on the preferred route of O2NL.
"Council officers will work with NZTA to incorporate a preferred route for the motorway to provide developers and new home buyers with confidence," said Cr Bernie Wanden.
Gladstone Green is next to SH57 and borders Queen Street to the north and Tararua Rd to the south, an area totaling 278ha. The area has in the past been identified for potential growth but recent plans for smaller subdivisions from several landowners for different sections of the area have prompted formation of a master plan.
Council officers will work with NZTA to incorporate a preferred route for the motorway to provide developers and new home buyers with confidence.
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Horowhenua Growth Manager Daniel Haigh said council realised separate developments could lead to poor connections into Levin and could lead to multiply unconnected cul-de-sacs.
"Landowners have agreed to work with us on a master plan," said Haigh. The master plan includes residential and mixed-use properties.
"It is essentially a conceptual layout to guide future growth. It will include reserves and parks, a small retail and business area and potential land for a new school.
"It will also help identify the level of infrastructure investment that will be required."
The location of this subdivision will allow for easy access to existing sewage and water infrastructure that has the capacity to cope with the development, though upgrades will be required.
Council is discussing the master plan with local landowners and will take it to the wider community next month.
The Strategy Committee also discussed plans to reintroduce development and financial contributions, as indicated in December last year.
"This is to show we have started the discussion and are looking at how to fund growth," said CEO David Clapperton, though he said development and financial contributions are just two of several options to fund growth.
Cr Barry Judd said that in the past many councils got this legislation wrong. "We need clarity first on this, on what we can and cannot do.
"The perception that development contributions are a tax of right on developers is wrong.
"The basic principles behind the legislation must be cleared up first," he said.
"Many developers are not subject to development contributions. We must know what we can and cannot do.
"Rules need to be easy to understand for everyone including the community. Development contributions are not a tax as of right," Judd said.
Subdivisions do not automatically require development contributions.
Existing infrastructure on site that can cope with growth means development contributions cannot be charged.
"We need to fully understand implications," Cr Ross Brannigan said.
"There are many myths out there about development contributions.
"They are neither simple nor a silver bullet. We need to understand the regulation first and then building something around it.
"We do not want to stymie growth again," Cr Neville Gimblett said.
"It is important to get this right."
"This is very challenging," David Clapperton said.
"We first need to know where the growth will be and then what the cost of any new infrastructure would be, if any is needed. Then we can decide the level of development contributions."
Development contributions enable councils to recover the costs of providing infrastructure for growth areas. The Local Government Act 2002 requires councils to have a policy on development contributions, and to review that policy every three years.
"Essentially, development contributions applied to any change of land use that would generate more demand on infrastructure," he said.
"That included infill housing on existing sections by residents who would not think of themselves as 'developers', as well as new multi-home subdivisions," Clapperton said.
He said Horowhenua District Council removed development contributions in 2015, after feedback that the contributions were a disincentive to business and new residential development.
"At the time, the district had low population growth, average economic growth, below average employment growth, and a fairly flat property market.
"Development contributions could be the tipping point in a decision whether or not to invest."
He said there are strong reasons both for and against charging development contributions, and there is no right or wrong stance to take.
Deputy Mayor Wayne Bishop declared a conflict of interest in relation to the development contributions at the start of the meeting and stepped back from the council table when the topic was discussed. He took no part in the discussion at any time. Mayor Michael Feyen and Cr Victoria Kaye-Simmons had sent their apologies and were not at the meeting.