Residents of western Whanganui are adjusting to life with the Fitzherbert Ave road extension, along with more plans from local authorities to further grow the area.
The suburb of Springvale, along with neighbouring Tawhero and Otamatea, is a rapidly changing area of Whanganui.
With the recently completed Fitzherbert Ave road extension, new housing subdivisions and upgrades to underground water and utility services some of the quieter streets in that part of town have been a lot noisier of late.
Eric Cairns had seen a lot of changes since moving to his newly-built home in Kelsi St in the mid-1990s.
"We were the first to buy a section here, but my neighbour over the road built his house before we built ours," Cairns said.
"Most of the neighbours have been here almost as long as we have. We used to have a lot of street parties because paddocks surrounded us and there was no one to disturb."
Today, the speed and volume of traffic had increased on Fitzherbert at one end of the street and there's a new street - Magnolia Cresent at the other end.
Cairns said his street had been busy with contractors' vehicles while the new houses in Magnolia Cresent were being built but those vehicles were now mostly using the newly developed Morrell St named after Whanganui bronze sculptor Joan Morrell who died last year.
Young mother Renee Sorenson moved to Magnolia Cresent two years ago and said it was a nice, new neighbourhood to live in.
"There's a mix of retired people and a lot of young, working families," she said.
Sorenson said the new Fitzherbert Ave extension which opened in March this year is an "awesome road".
"It is so much easier to get to town and back now that the traffic is moving faster."
In Kakaho Drive on the other side of Fitzherbert Ave, pharmacist Jo Griffiths said the new road had led to some dangerous driving.
"The new road is great but I have noticed a bit of speeding from some drivers," she said.
"A straight stretch like that is tempting I suppose."
The growth in the western part of Whanganui is mostly driven by Whanganui District Council's plan change 53 also known as the Springvale structure plan.
Work on developing the plan began in 2018 and was adopted by the council in April 2020.
The aims of the plan are to make the area "a high-quality urban environment" with walkable neighbourhoods and streets well-connected to public spaces and a shared cycleway network linking to schools and nearby areas.
Council principal policy planner Gavin McCullagh said the plan also included management of stormwater and traffic including the protection of Mosston Rd as a route for heavy traffic.
He said the purpose of the plan change was to meet projected housing demand for land out to 2065.
"However, along with the land within the Northwest Structure Plan, greenfield development of low-density detached dwellings is only one means of supply.
"Whanganui also has significant opportunities for infill developments to complement areas such as Springvale and Otamatea."
There is also provision for a neighbourhood park to be made south of Fox Rd along with protection and potential enhancement of the Tītoki Wetland, an area of high cultural and ecological value.
McCullagh said the original modelling for infrastructure planning purposes identified that around 400 new dwellings would be possible within the Springvale structure plan area.
Springvale has been Whanganui's fastest-selling suburb in recent years and the latest One Roof report listed 100 residential sales in the area over the past year.
The rezoning and expansion of the area had enabled the extension of Fitzherbert Ave which has been completed to an arterial road standard to allow access to prime residential land, McCullagh said.
"The extension includes new reticulated and utility underground services to accommodate the residential growth demands of the area and provides a strategic transportation link between the residential areas of Whanganui and the developing industrial land around Mill Rd," he said.
"Over 100 new lots are proposed in subdivisions adjacent to the Mosston Road and Fitzherbert Drive intersection."
The rezoning of rural lifestyle land to residential and amending plan policies and rules to encourage residential development and subdivision were part of the stated aims of the plan.
That was not welcome news to one property owner in the area as the council had announced its intention to take his land under the Public Works Act 1981.
The notice states the land is required for a road to support the plan change.
The property owner said he did not want to comment while a legal process was under way.
Some land owned by the council would also be rezoned as reserves and open spaces in the area and McCullagh said additional development would occur as private landholders and developers choose to bring their developments to market.
When the plan opened for submissions in 2019 mana whenua representatives raised concerns about how the plan failed to acknowledge the relationship of Māori to "land beyond sites of significance."
A Springvale whenua combined hapū group, made up of Te Runanga o Tupoho and Te Kaahui o Rauru representatives had concerns about untreated stormwater being discharged into the awa (Whanganui River), and about the preservation of flora and fauna in the area.
The group's spokeswoman Tracey Waitokia was not available for comment this week.
Tupoho kaumatua John Maihi attended the hearing where two independent commissioners heard the concerns of the hapū group's submission and said it was not about opposing the development.
"Whanganui needs more housing but it needs to be the right kind of housing and it needs to cater to different needs. We didn't oppose the development, we were concerned about the lack of consultation and the need to take care of the whenua."
The final Springvale Structure plan was informed by hapū, landowners, community groups, and technical advice in relation to ecological, archaeological, cultural, traffic, and stormwater management options.