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Tauranga ‘losing the war’ on providing for future growth – commissioner Stephen Selwood

Stephen Sellwood.

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Stephen Sellwood.
Photo: John Borren / Sun Media

The “failure” of Waka Kotahi to deliver transport infrastructure is causing “serious frustration” for Tauranga City Council as it attempts to open up more land for development.

Plans are underway to create a new community Tauriko West that will have up to 4000 homes, but there is uncertainty around Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency’s long-term transport plans.

Situated on the western side of State Highway 29, the development will run alongside the Wairoa River between Redwood Lane and Cambridge Rd. There are also plans to expand the industrial area on the other side of the highway.

The issue of “constrained development” was raised at the Tauranga City Council (TCC) Strategy, Finance and Risk Committee meeting on Monday.

TCC city planning and growth manager Andy Mead told the meeting transport solutions in the Western Corridor were “a longstanding issue”.

He said when the decision was made to progress with Tauriko West in 2016, Waka Kotahi made “commitments” at the same time to proceed with transport planning, which started in 2017.

“Five years later and we’re still some way away from understanding what that [transport] solution will be, when it might be able to be developed, is it affordable,” said Mead.

“We still don’t have a solution that enables us to rezone Tauriko West with confidence that it can all be developed.

“We don’t have a solution that enables all of the Tauriko business estate to be rezoned and developed with confidence.”

The land is currently zoned for rural use and requires rezoning in order for the development to occur.

Waka Kotahi had been in a “difficult space”, faced a change of government and a “significant change” in transport policy and direction, said Mead.

Commission chair Anne Tolley expressed her “frustration” at the timing and that the transport options were based on density figures from 2012. This didn’t take into account the new government density rules that allowed greater intensification.

“We know density can happen anywhere in the city, but none of that is being considered by Waka Kotahi with the transport options,” she said.

“It’s [the transport solution] only in the 10 year plan as a business case. And that’s our strong message from the region to government is that this is holding up significant housing and industrial development in the city and has been for 10, maybe 15 years.”

Anne Tolley.

Anne Tolley.
Photo: John Borren / Sun Media

Commissioner Stephen Selwood mirrored Tolley’s frustration, and said all the agencies involved needed to align to achieve the Western Corridor’s potential.

“The failure of Waka Kotahi to deliver the infrastructure because they have constrained funding, means that Tauranga citizens who both live here and who are coming here are paying exorbitant house prices because council can’t deliver the infrastructure to open up the land,” he said.

“We might win the battle on penny pinching on the project, but we lose the war in terms of actually how we provide for the future growth of the city.

“We need to have strategic discussions with Waka Kotahi to make sure they’re intent to deliver their part of it, because that corridor cannot be developed to its capacity without the State Highway 29 upgrade.”

In response to the council’s concerns, Waka Kotahi regional manager system design Jess Andrew said the agency was committed to completing the Tauriko Network Connections Business Case and seeking board endorsement in 2023.

“There have been some delays to its completion while we ensure the proposed project responds to the recently released Emissions Reduction Plan.

“Waka Kotahi must also assess the affordability of the project, given significant escalation in both property and construction costs,” said Andrew.

“Waka Kotahi recognises any delay to providing final certainty on the long-term solution for State Highway 29 through Tauriko is frustrating for all.

“We are working at pace to resolve these outstanding issues and complete the business case as soon as possible.”

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Story Credit: rnz.co.nz

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