Pukehāngi Heights plan change approved

The potential development of an estimated 790 dwellings in Rotorua is a step closer following the approval of a District Plan Change by Minister for the Environment, David Parker.

Minister Parker confirmed the decision in a letter to Council. The Pukehāngi Heights Plan Change will rezone approximately 160 hectares of land to a mixture of residential and rural residential areas.

Pukehāngi Heights landowner, Paul Sumner says he was happy with the Minister’s decision.

“This streamlined process is an improvement to the system for land development and that’s got to be a good thing, not just for landowners but for Council as well,” said Mr Sumner.

“We are now just waiting to get started on the next stages. There’s still an application and consent process to get through but what’s planned for these developments is going to be really appealing. It’s a substantial piece of natural land that’s elevated and north facing – aesthetically it will be a great place to live.”

Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick said working through the Minister was a new process that cut down on the amount of time it would normally take to complete a traditional plan change.

Ms Chadwick said the Streamlined Plan Change Process enabled the Minister to approve a shortened but equally robust process in a limited range of circumstances – including where a proposal addresses a national direction, in this case housing, or a significant community need.

He said the Minister’s decision was “good news” that would enable progress towards much-needed housing for the city.

“The Pukehāngi proposals are significant developments that will contribute to addressing the district’s critical housing shortage,” she said.

“We won’t see houses going up overnight but the decision is a significant step forward in terms of enabling these developments to progress, and much more quickly than may have been the case under a normal plan change which can see years added to the process if there are appeals.

“Council can now work with the respective developers to progress required consenting and stormwater management processes. We are committed to working in partnership with developers to get building underway as quickly as possible.”

Since the use of the Streamlined Process was approved by the Minister in January last year, Council has worked through two rounds of public submissions, followed by a hearing, and then the commissioners’ recommendations to the Minister.

Now that the Plan Change for rezoning has been approved, Council will be working with all the landowners on the next steps towards progressing residential development, including the development of a stormwater management plan. Discharge and stormwater consents are also required before development can occur.

Guiding the development of any future subdivisions within Pukehāngi Heights are six general principles that were established as part of the plan change. Those principles also address a number of the concerns raised during the submission periods. They include the recognition, protection and expression of cultural and archaeological values of the area, low impact stormwater management and excellent urban design outcomes.

As part of the process Council engaged with tangata whenua, Te Arawa Lakes Trust, Bay of Plenty Regional Council and the wider Rotorua community.

“Ngāti Kearoa Ngāti Tuarā have been actively involved in this plan change along with Te Komiti Nui o Ngāti Whakaue and Te Arawa Lakes Trust,” says Chairperson of Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Kearoa Ngāti Tuara, Robyn Bargh.

“We look forward to continuing to work with Council and land owners to ensure the cultural history of the Pukehāngi area is recognised in future development, cultural sites are protected and to ensure future development does not impact on water quality in the Mangakakahi and Utuhina streams or lead to further degradation of Lake Rotorua.”

Rotorua Lakes Council is working across the district to support residential development to address the current housing shortage. Investing in infrastructure, partnering with Government and using the Streamlined Plan Change Process are all part of the wider Housing Strategy that aims to unlock land and enable developers.