A community board is warning Tararua District Council their zoning rules could limit a town’s ability to expand, as the region deals with a rapidly growing population for the first time in its 30-year history.
The Tararua district’s population peaked in the 1960s and was in constant decline until 2013, and since 2018 the population growth had repeatedly blown past the council’s estimates – based on the highest forecasts from Statistics NZ.
Pahīatua on Track chairwoman Louise Powick said the community board was concerned that the council’s district plan was constraining urban growth, and limiting Tararua’s ability to ensure there were enough houses for the growing population.
Tararua’s main towns were likely to run out of space for infill housing well within the next decade, and new subdivision developments would be needed on town boundaries to meet demand.
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However, land bordering the four main boundaries was designated as an “urban buffer zone,” where subdivisions were limited to being larger than 8000 square metres.
Powick said that restriction made land in the zone more expensive, and limited both the pool of people who could afford to build a house and the number of sections that could be made available.
“Anecdotally, a large number of buyers would purchase a smaller section, less than 1000sqm, if more were available.”
Real Estate Institute of New Zealand’s most recent figures showed the pressure the district’s housing market was under – as the average house price in Tararua hit $400,000 in April, a 70 per cent increase from April 2020.
That was a sudden and massive acceleration of growth compared to the previous year, when the average price had risen 14.6 per cent over 12 months from $205,000 in April 2019.
Mayor Tracey Collis said the district’s population exploded right alongside the house prices, and the councils current forecast was that 20,439 people would live in Tararua in 2031 – a 7 per cent increase on 2021, and 12 per cent more than forecast in the 2018 Long Term Plan.
The council was proactively developing a growth strategy to manage the zoning, regulation changes and infrastructure spending it would need to keep pace, alongside a review of the district plan over the next two years, she said.
A combination of public consultations, research and analysis would look at how fast individual towns were growing, what houses and zoning changes were needed and where, and if any new community services were necessary.
“We’re trying to use that for a guide before we put anything in place, so we don’t have any unintended consequences.”
Collis said infrastructure, particularly for drinking water, wastewater and stormwater, would be a big expense as the district’s towns expanded.
That was one of the reasons the urban buffer zones were first set-up; to concentrate new homes within the towns’ boundaries where they could use existing infrastructure and services could be delivered cost-effectively.
But with a need to make room for new shops and commercial development, one of the options the council would look at to help fund the district’s expansion was introducing Tararua’s first development contribution fees, she said.