Should a piece of land tagged for sports activities provide much-needed homes for Tauranga residents instead?
That’s the question Tauranga City Council is asking its communities after a search for solutions to the current housing shortage led to a 30ha block of undeveloped land south of SH2 in Bethlehem.
Parau Farms was bought by Council in the early 2000s for the purpose of providing sports fields and space to stretch our legs, but Commission Chair Anne Tolley says the world has changed since then.
“Back in 2000 who would have predicted lockdowns, compulsory face masks and average house prices in Tauranga topping $1 million? Tucked in behind the Bethlehem CBD, the land at Parau Farms is ideally placed to help us deliver more affordable, quality homes in Tauranga. It’s close to shops, schools, and other amenities and it’s on a passenger transport route. Given our extreme housing shortage, we owe it to our communities to look into that further.”
At this early stage, Council is looking into the potential use of the land for housing development and seeking feedback on the proposal from Mana Whenua, sports clubs, adjoining landowners and the wider Tauranga community.
A Memorandum of Understanding is also being developed between government housing provider Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities, Ngāti Kahu hapū, and Council.
“It’s early days, but if we decide to go ahead with the proposal, we want to work in partnership with housing experts to ensure more affordable homes, much needed social housing and also housing to meet the needs of our fast growing older population,” Anne says.
“We also recognise this is land of significance to local iwi so we will work closely with Tangata Whenua.”
At the same time Council is looking into alternative sites for sports fields.
“We want to reassure our communities that there are a number of viable alternative locations for sports fields, and we won’t be left with no active reserve if housing goes ahead at the Parau Farms site,” says Anne.
“What I do know for certain is that we’re at the beginning of a long process, with many steps to go through before any homes can be built on the site. The first step is for people with an interest in this site and the wider community to tell us what they think about this proposal.”