Sustainable development – a joint undertaking

whakatane city

All towns require growth to be sustainable. With growth comes the opportunity to upgrade old infrastructure and modernize the area. Without growth, the only other source of income for the council to maintain current levels of service will be from Rates increases, which are unattainable. Alternatively, privatization with “pay as use ”model – Toll Roads, Coin operated facilities and parks etc.

The new Mayor Tony Bonne pledged in the elections 2010, “… will promote effective sustainable growth and development of the Whakatane District. Every business must grow or diversify to survive and lower the fixed costs of running a business. Your council is no different. Tony Bonne will create more opportunities for land to be zoned residential. To keep rates at affordable levels we need residential and commercial growth” -extracted from his web blog.

The key factor in the selection of areas for development or rezoning is the economic constraints of delivering the project. Land cannot be allocated purely on locality without the key stake-holders involvement. Council has indicated various sites as part of the review of the District Plan, each of which has enormous obstacles to overcome. The council’s monitoring and policy committee recently recommended the rezoning of 21-hectare block of land between Shaw and Huna Roads from rural to residential 1, which will form part of the district plan review process (reported in Beacon 27 June 2012).

The economic reality is that the majority of these areas would only be able to accommodate high end development which will not serve the current needs of the area. A significant stock of high end development sites in Coastlands and Ohope illustrates the uncertainty in this market and highlights the conundrum of developers to undertake similar developments in this economic recession. It is reported that a significant proportion of the housing required in this region are low cost, preferably modern family units.

For council to promote a growth strategy of “infill subdivisions or multiple dwellings on larger section” is not sustainable. The concept of “willing buyer – willing seller” comes to mind – developers are hard pressed to acquire land which can accommodate multiple dwellings, much is left to chance when properties come onto the open market. It is extremely difficult, not to mention time consuming for developers to acquire multiple lots to enable more desirable layouts to be planned. This ad-hoc infill development results in properties with compromised layouts and access extremely close to dwellings. These issues have been highlighted in Councils Residential Environment Issues of “Shaping Whakatane” promotional sheets. It needs to be stressed that most land owners are not developers and therefore leaving this development to chance will not meet the councils predicted increase in dwelling units as proposed. You would think that one of the key development strategies of council would be to promote ergonomic planning and better utilisation of land.

Strategic developments such as the $65m upgrade of Whakatane Hospital, is key to the development of the area, attracting new resident of all ages to the area. The attraction of “newly retired” people to the area currently being investigated, as suggested by Tony Bond in his election proposals would not be achievable in the proposed council development areas for a number of reasons, mainly due to the sites being hilly, limited access to public transport, proximity to local hospital to name the obvious. A largish section of flat land, central lactated with potential for easy development of communication networks is essential for the success of such growth strategy.

An integrated development strategy in which Local Authorities, Central Government and key developers/ stakeholders will only flourish if these organizations are actively working together to achieve this common goal. Delivering the vision will require cooperation and the setting aside or demarcation of land for potential development is the easy part and potentially the most limiting. A significant drive and willingness to embrace growth is required in the form of action is required, the time for talking has passed. The election promises have been made, now is the opportunity for them to be delivered – or not….?

Rob Truter
0274 805 127 or 07 307 0694