Unbridled land development planned since 2008 — but plan consultation just starting
By Veronica Harrod
Despite intentions by Horowhenua District Council to initiate a “collaborative approach” to consultations on a proposed 20-year Long Term Plan (2018-2038) the council and land developers have been meeting since 2008 to advance a potential 963.3 hectare land development programme for Levin.
In a two page advertisment on the proposed Long Term Plan (LTP), council’s chief executive David Clapperton says, “We expect similar growth to that experienced by Kapiti. So, as a community, we need to think about our towns, villages, our facilities and infrastructure…We are taking a collaborative approach.”
But a 2008 Horowhenua Development Plan for Levin says, “It is proposed that council in consultation with landowners will prepare an overall structure plan for the main areas in advance of rezoning to establish the spatial arrangement of key streets, open spaces and linkages, densities [and] infrastructure.”
Fears about development
Fears the most important LTP decisions on the extent and shape of land development in the district have already been made are also indicated in council’s Residential Development Provisions Review presented to the strategy committee on July 5 this year.
It says: “A series of workshops was convened by the Council with representatives of the local development community [land developers] and relevant council staff. The purpose of these workshops was to explore provisions in the operative District Plan that were seen to be inhibiting residential growth and development
opportunities in the district.
“The workshops were also used to test the scale and significance of the issues raised by [council and land developer] participants, with the outcome of this engagement used to help frame and inform the matters addressed in this proposed change.”
Public excluded meetings
An intention to consult the public on the Long Term Plan after publicly-excluded discussions and decisions have already been made by council and land developers strongly suggests council has already decided on a future characterised by unfettered land development.
An example of this is council’s 2008 Horowhenua Development Levin report which is entirely based on discussions held by council with land developers in publicly excluded sessions and proposes the development of twelve areas of land extending over 963.3 hectares within Levin and surrounding rural land.
Of this 110 hectares of rural land will, “change zoning to be released in stages as ‘standard’ residential land (typically 500-1000m2 lots).” The report also says the 110 hectare land development could, “accommodate around 1100 new households..in three different areas..and [a further] 55.5 hectares of rural land is proposed for staged release as ‘low density’ residential land (typically 1000-2000m2 lots) in two different areas.”
Two major developments
Further indications council has already made significant long term plan decisions without public consultation is the progression of two land development projects contained in the 2008 Horowhenua Development report.
These include the recently announced intention to build a new medical centre in Durham Street on council owned land where Jack Allen House is situated and the 54.7 hectare standard residential North East land development.
Two other standard residential land development projects in the Horowhenua Land Development Levin report include a 29.2 hectares in Kawiu Road/Ryders Crescent excluding, “A buffer of rural land has been left between Area 3 and Lake Horowhenua” and 25.5 hectares in Kinross Street/Winiata Street/Tararua Road.
Planned low density residential land projects include 38 hectares identified in Kawiu Road/Claremont Rise/Gordon Place and a further 17.5 hectares in the Fairfield Road/Roslyn Road area.
Also landowners involved in discussions with council have already agreed to sub-divide and sell up to 504.6 hectares of land in the Queen Street East/Gladstone Road/Tararua Road to allow up to 1000 houses of Green Belt Residential to be built to, “encourage a larger lot housing opportunity (between 2000m2 and 5000m2) where large gardens and green open spaces can be provided for.”
25.9 hectares has been identified for, “smaller scale commercial activities and larger scale bulk retail outlets” in three blocks including (1) York/Bristol/Exeter Streets (2) Cambridge Street South/Totara Streets and (3) Hokio Beach Road/Coventry Street. A further 44.4 hectares in the Tararua Road area has been determined as being appropriate for industrial land use.
The intention is to connect the twelve new land development areas, including at least 2100 new residential houses, and commercial and industrial businesses, to the existing essential infrastructure networks.
In the Residential Development Provisions Review presented to the strategy committee on July 5 this year no environmental or cultural impacts were identified by increased urban density even though both environmental and cultural impacts of growth were at least acknowledged in the 2008 report.
Lake Horowhenua issues
The only environmental impact identified in the review of urban density rules was the potential for significant change to the character of the area and the only
cultural considerations was, “given to the interface of Levin with Lake Horowhenua and restricting development around its edges, both to minimise the flooding risk to new housing and to preserve the lake edges for their recreational and landscape value to the town.” Lake Horowhenua owners and MuaUpoko interests didn’t even rate a mention.
The lack of detail on environmental and cultural costs of increasing urban density are explained by council’s stated intention to use the discussions council has been having with land developers since 2008 to “frame and inform the matters addressed.”
A full examination and identification of the true environmental and cultural costs would challenge the council/land developer cabal of vested interests to pursue an unbridled lust for land development at any cost in order to, as the review states, “fully leverage off its competitive and comparative advantages.”
In the 2008 Horowhenua Development report environmental and cultural impacts of growth include, “constraints on reticulated water and wastewater system constraints – water supplies in the town are stressed and consideration of a new resource or demand management will be required for future development. Much of the reticulation system is AC pipes which will need replacement on a rolling programme. There is insufficient water storage for existing population and increased population will require additional storage. Many areas are subject to natural hazards (ponding).”
The report also recognises cultural costs of land development in the comment that natural features including Lake Horowhenua can be protected by, “limiting expansion in these areas.”
Consultation the council is legally required to initiate on proposed changes to urban density rules also only took place after council had met and made decisions with land developers on how to proceed.
“…letters [and a copy of the draft plan changes] were sent to the Ministry for the Environment, the Manawatu-Wanganui (Horizons) Regional Council and Iwi Authorities…outlining the nature and scope of the proposed change and inviting comment…The only response received was from the Ministry for the Environment.”
The Ministry for the Environment stated changes to the Resource Management Act introduced by the former National led Government early this year means land owners in urban areas no longer need to consult neighbours about plans to sub-divide and build another house.
Council therefore does not intend on informing or consulting with affected property owners about any plans their neighbours may have to sub-divide land and build another property on-site.
An executive summary of council’s draft Annual Report for the year ended 30 June 2017 says, “8 new allotments have been created as at 31 August 2017, 3 Residential and 5 Rural [and] building consent revenue is $102,000 ahead of budget reflecting the level of activity.”