Regional | Fast-track bill

Fast-track bill: Plans to speed up Hukutaia housing development

Ōpōtiki Council. Photo: LDR

Ōpōtiki District Council hopes to use proposed fast-track consenting legislation for a District Plan Change to allow for housing development in the Hukutaia area, in the eastern Bay of Plenty.

However, as the council had opted for a Streamlined Planning Process available to councils under the Resource Management Act, it is uncertain whether the legislation would help developers start building sooner.

Both the streamlined and fast-track processes would take between 18 months and two years, instead of between two and four years under the standard Resource Management Act processes.

Both processes mean people have no rights to make submissions unless invited to, or to appeal the decision.

Ōpōtiki’s council has been looking at ways to support housing development in the Hukutaia area for many years to address current housing shortages and long-term needs for its growing marine and horticulture industries.

Hukutaia is close to the town and local industry and above flooding and sea level rise projections for the next 100 years.

The new plan proposes changing zoning in the area from rural to residential.

Plans were drawn up for the Hukutaia Growth Area in 2021, to provide future housing to support Ōpōtiki marine and horticultural industries.

In 2021, the council was turned down for Government funding to assist with the extension of water and roading services.

The council decided to proceed with the Hukutaia plan change in December last year and received an update from planning and regulatory group manager Gerard McCormack at a meeting on Tuesday.

In the report, Mr McCormack explained that the streamlined process it had opted for was part of the legislation that had since been repealed and was expected to be replaced by the fast-track process.

The proposed fast-track legislation, which aims to cut some of the red tape for priority infrastructure and development projects, is currently at the select committee stage.

The council will still undertake consultation with affected parties, iwi, landowners and other stakeholders prior to submitting the plan change application, and the Ministry for the Environment’s expert panel would also invite written comments from neighbours and a range of parties.

The report also mentioned confirmation from Bay of Plenty Regional Council that its new On-site Effluent Treatment Plan, which is still in draft form, would allow existing septic tanks within Hukutaia to remain permitted once the area received wastewater reticulation, unless the septic tanks were very old or poorly constructed.

Being forced to pay to be connected to a reticulated system has been a sticking point for some existing residents in the area in the past.

The council has plans to upgrade its wastewater system over the next 30 years, extending the reticulation system to the Hukutaia area, but only new developments would be required to connect.

The report also said that MRC consultants had been appointed to carry out an industrial needs assessment to determine whether land adjoining Hukutaia needs to be included in the plan change. This is expected to be completed and brought to the council in August.

Landowners within the Hukutaia Growth Area had expressed a keen interest in developing their land, the report said.

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