Urban limits may have to be redefined as a planning tool if the Tauranga City Council view gets taken up by the SmartGrowth update project.
Of the three options up for discussion on the urban limits issue, Tauranga councillors voted this week for the compromise option, to retain urban limits, but require staff to reconsider criteria.
The other options are to either keep urban limits as is, or remove them altogether.
Larry Baldock says ‘urban limits’ is an archaic town planning term from the 1960s or 1970s.
“It was a planning phrase that said ‘because you didn’t want urban sprawl, you would throw a ring round a city and say you cannot go past that.’
“And as a result the evidence is very clear, land prices went up inside and on the fringes, which caused problems with affordable houses.”
It’s less of a problem in Tauranga because most of the available land inside the current urban limits is owned by developers, says Larry.
The problem for the city council says Larry is the term ‘urban limits’ is used in the regional policy statement, which the council is required to give effect to.
“The phrase doesn’t fit what we are doing here.”
Tauranga City Council is seven years into a 50 year plan and is already looking at changing its urban limits says Larry.
“Because we have used that term, we have set up for ourselves more barriers to being able to make changes; more planning processes, open to appeals, objections and all sorts of things.
“We have got Sequential development over a 50 year period. That’s not urban limits.”
He wants urban limits to become sequential development.
“We want to talk about a settlement pattern that has some flexibility of rules around the edges,” says Larry. “Right now we’re faced with an expensive southern pipeline and we might want to see development down there that puts more stuff down that in the pipeline and money in the bank.
“At the moment we are pitted with central government that has a particular view simply because a particular ideology has won the day.”
Councillor Bill Faulkner wants the action sequences in the sequential development to be triggered by population number, not a date.
“Had we known what was going to happen when we commenced the southern pipeline we might have adopted a whole different approach to everything,” says Bill.
“Growth continues in all five corridors’, is a nice statement but its unrelated to the timing so if you are going to agree with gearing to a population without a timeline, this might be a good thing to do too.”
The SmartGrowth update requires councillor decisions to guide staff through suggested directions and options.
The situation is the New Zealand Transport Agency is investing a lot of money in the Tauranga Eastern Link. Tauranga City Council is investing a lot of money in the southern pipeline, which runs in the other direction, servicing growth on the Tauranga side of the harbour. The Western Bay of Plenty District Council has also invested heavily, about $60 million, on infrastructure in Omokoroa.
Each of the investing entities want to maximise their project’s use to help pay for them, and they all require growth in their particular catchments in the near term.
“In Omokoroa, most of that $60 million debt is funded by financial contributions which are trickling in at a much slower rate than their interest costs are at the moment,” says planner Andrew Mead. “Their debt is going up.”
“The southern pipeline is heavily reliant on development contribution funding, and that means we need the development on this side of the harbour.
“For the TEL, $115 million has been tagged to toll funding. Their tolling revenue will in part be determined on how much growth there is in that eastern corridor and how quickly it happens.”
In the short term growth is slow, and all the land tagged for development over the next 20 years is in the hands of developers, which means the council’s options for ‘steering’ growth into any particular catchment are limited.
Councillors are talking about trying to encourage growth in any particular direction by changing the rules on land outside the urban limits, so they can get growth without the need to pay for infrastructure. But if development rules were changed to remove the requirement for sub divisions to be linked to city services, the council’s southern pipeline project will miss out.
“There’s not a thing we can do about it,” says councillor Terry Molloy. “We are locked in, committed to these areas, we put the money up and need to somehow get it back.”