Regional | Rotorua

Rotorua mayor Tania Tapsell welcomes government housing growth plan

Rotorua opted in to Medium-Density Residential Standards in 2022 - but will need to vote on whether to keep them. Photo / Andrew Warner

Rotorua’s mayor has welcomed the government’s new housing growth plan, saying it prioritises the “current housing crisis”.

Stage one of the government’s Going for Housing Growth plan was announced on Thursday and Housing and Resource Management Act (RMA) Reform Minister Chris Bishop said it would focus on “the fundamentals that have led to unaffordable housing”.

“Our programme of reform involves freeing up land for development and removing unnecessary planning barriers, improving infrastructure funding and financing, and providing incentives for communities and councils to support growth.

“Housing in New Zealand is too expensive because we have made it very difficult for our cities to grow. Fixing our housing crisis will improve our economy, increase productivity, help get the government’s books back in order by reducing the enormous fiscal cost to the government, improve intergenerational equity, and decrease material hardship.”

The policy will have a big impact on local councils.

Changes included the government abolishing councils’ ability to set fixed urban-rural boundaries and the powers that let councils mandate balconies or minimum floor area sizes for developments.

It will also make the government’s Medium-Density Residential Standards (MDRS) optional for councils.

Rotorua’s previous elected council requested the city be included with Tier 1 councils such as Auckland and Tauranga, enabling up to three houses of up to three storeys to be built on most residential sections without a resource consent.

Rotorua Lakes Council’s then-mayor Steve Chadwick said in 2022 it was a welcome step.

“The decision to seek Rotorua’s inclusion in this legislation was unanimously supported by our elected members who all recognise the acute housing needs in our district.”

The decision was controversial and some members of the current council believed the community was not consulted.

Now, all councils covered by the standards need to take a ratification vote to determine whether to retain, alter, or remove the MDRS planning changes.

Rotorua mayor Tania Tapsell has welcomed the new plan. Photo / Laura Smith

Rotorua Mayor Tania Tapsell said housing remained a top and urgent priority for the council.

“It’s positive to see the government continuing to prioritise the current housing crisis as there’s no doubt we need more homes in Rotorua.”

She said the required ratification vote would attract interest locally, to determine whether it kept or altered the standards in urban areas, “providing they give effect to the new government’s other pro-development policies”.

“As a council, we’ll now need to consider what this means for Rotorua and what opportunities there are to work with the government to ensure better housing development that meets the needs of our locals in a positive way.

“This will take some time as the government plans to undertake formal consultation in early 2025. We’ll be waiting on further government decisions such as when these announcements will come into force and look forward to discussing it as a council.”

Local Democracy Reporting asked the council how the housing growth announcement would impact the district, and what was most significant for Rotorua.

Community and district development group manager Jean-Paul Gaston said there was a lot to consider and staff needed time to understand the impacts on current housing policies and planning rules, as well as the Government’s plan for implementation.

A 2019 analysis found Rotorua had a growing housing deficit of 1750 homes. Nearly 900 applicants were on the waiting list for social housing in the city as of March, with about 600 in temporary housing in May.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.

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

Local Democracy Reporting