The Ōpōtiki community is experiencing a worsening housing shortage which is putting increasing pressure on families and those most in need.
As a community, we know we need to plan and build housing quickly to ensure there are good houses for our current residents and for the growth in our town with the new harbour, mussel factory and marina projects all coming online.
Council is working to find a medium to longer-term solution to the housing issue by building infrastructure to unlock new areas and increase housing supply.
Hukutaia has been considered by Council for many years (through successive Long Term Plans) for a wide range of reasons:
- it is close and accessible to town services
- it is above flooding and sea level rise risks projected in the next 100 years
- there is plenty of land and growth opportunities at scale (not occasional infill housing)
- it doesn’t cut too deeply into our productive horticultural land
- council already provides many services (particularly rubbish and water supply) to the area
- there may be opportunities for iwi-led housing investment.
Council consulted with the community in the 2021-2031 LTP process on the option of extending council services to Hukutaia.
There was significant feedback. Many people were opposed to Council extending services to Hukutaia because of increases to general rates and also the costs for property owners who would need to connect to a sewer once it was available.
In response that that feedback, the first year of Council’s LTP is to investigate further options for Hukutaia and carefully consider how any growth could be structured.
Council commissioned a business case to consider the best way to deal with Ōpōtiki’s current need and future growth.
The business case considers other locations (in-fill housing, Waiotahi Drifts, Tablelands etc) but Hukutaia scored best on all factors.
On that basis, a high-level plan was created to outline how Hukutaia could be developed over the next 50 years. This is conceptual only and is not binding in any way in its current form.
We used this information as the basis for our application to the IAF in 2021. Our application explicitly dealt with many concerns raised by the local community during the LTP process.
- The IAF application included funding to help pay connection costs for properties near the Stage 1 sewer mains who may want to connect.
- The plan uses a range of tools to encourage mixed housing options in Hukutaia – from affordable housing, smaller units, to larger and more expensive options.
- The process is staged over 50 years so that supply and demand for housing go hand-in-hand
- The plan is built on commitments and conversations with several organisations and individuals who are keen to develop in the first stages
- Community facilities and needs have been built into the Plan – health facilities, transport (including walking and cycling options) and other infrastructure.
Unfortunately, we were not successful with our application to the IAF and so we will continue to investigate other options for funding and work with developers who have expressed an interest to find smaller, shorter-term solutions.
SEWER CONNECTIONS: Will landowners be forced to connect to the wastewater network when it becomes available? How long will they have? Will they have to pay themselves? What are the expected costs?
Our initial planning indicates that properties will be connected at the same time as the new main is laid to minimise costs. Therefore, landowners will be asked whether they want to connect before the works are tendered. We are not yet sure of exact costs but as an indication, our IAF application allows for up to $10,000 per property but it will depend on the type of system installed in proximity to each property. Council is undertaking an options assessment.
Once connected to a sewer main, properties will pay the targeted rates for ‘connection to a public sewerage drain’. Properties that have the option of connecting but do not do so, will pay a half charge (an ‘availability charge’) for
the sewerage availability and proximity of the sewer main to their property.
There may be other costs including decommissioning of septic tanks and (if a low pressure system is used) a small increase in electricity use. However, there will also be an associated reduction in costs and complexities of a septic tank, particularly if the tank is nearing the end of its design life.
We will seek clarity from Bay of Plenty Regional Council on the requirements of their On-site Effluent Treatment Plan and what that means for who might be required to connect and when. We may be able to organise a staged process for connection, such as at the end of the life of the septic tank or a subdivision.
Our application to the IAF included funding assistance for properties close to the new sewer mains in the first stage of development to cover upfront costs to connect. Unfortunately, our application for IAF funding was unsuccessful and so we do not have this funding available. We will seek a similar arrangement through any future funding opportunities we are able to access.
They can, and to a point they will. However, this is about encouraging development at scale and making sure that developers know the places where council wants to see sustainable growth. This also ensures a structured approach to the provision of assets to service the area which means there isn’t a piecemeal approach which can lead to poorer community outcomes.
If development is to go ahead, it is likely we will need some changes to the current District Plan. If our application for funding is successful, we will need to make changes to the District Plan and public consultation is part of that process.
We already have a desperate demand for housing as acknowledged by Kainga Ora and those who work in the real estate industry. We also have significant projected job growth, much already coming online as people return to the rohe and new people move here for jobs in the growing aquaculture industry, horticulture and other new and growing industries.
Reports prepared for the Harbour project conservatively estimated 57 new house holds per year and other data indicates backlogged demand of over 200 properties.
By phasing the approach in Hukutaia, we expect that new subdivisions will come online in time to meet new period of demand.
We have spoken to several land owners (sufficient for stage 1) who have indicated an interest in developing their land for housing. At this stage we will keep details confidential as these will be personal and commercial decisions for each landowner.
We will continue to engage with property owners in the area if or when any development proceeds.
We will work closely with the Ministry of Education to ensure there is adequate provision in both early learning and schooling networks as the project progresses.
Almost the whole of New Zealand is currently suffering from a long-standing housing crisis. The whole country is working on solutions. For Ōpōtiki, this is exacerbated by a few extra factors:
1. Harbour development and associated industry (and existing poor housing options in town). We understood this issue as we worked on getting funding for the harbour and it has been in our radar for many years (we have consulted on Hukutaia through several LTPs). However, without funding committed for the Harbour, we couldn’t take steps to reduce other associated issues. We are doing so now.
2. Covid – for Ōpōtiki, this has meant an influx of people coming home. They are increasingly finding work and therefore staying.
3. Grow across several industries at the same time – aquaculture, horticulture, agriculture are all growing and this has meant that we are in this situation sooner than anticipated.
The old hospital site has been land-banked and earmarked to be returned to Whakatōhea through their Treaty Settlement process. That process will continue with its own timelines. Whakatōhea also have plans and expectations for the site including a wide range of housing, retail and other spaces and uses.