Growing Hamilton

Changes don’t go far enough: Council

Hamilton City Council has welcomed changes to a housing bill that will deliver improved design outcomes for the city and better protect the Waikato River.

But Mayor Paula Southgate said the changes don’t go “anywhere near far enough” to address severe infrastructure funding issues facing Hamilton and other high-growth areas.

She also remains deeply concerned that new laws which will allow homes of up to three storeys to be built on most Hamilton sites, without needing a resource consent, look set to go ahead.

Government considered changes to the RMA (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Bill this week. The Bill aims to deliver more housing, faster in Tier 1 growth cities including Hamilton, Auckland, Wellington, Tauranga and Christchurch. It would also impact some smaller centres, including Cambridge.

While the contentious proposal to allow three storeyed development remains, other parts of the Bill have been changed following feedback from around the country.

District Plan Committee Chair Councillor Ryan Hamilton delivered Council’s submission, noting the Bill was in direct conflict to Council’s own strategic growth planning for the city.

As well as raising concern about the blanket three-storey proposals, the submission strongly advocated for Te Ture Whaimana o Te Awa o Waikato (the Vision and Strategy for the Waikato River) to be recognised in the legislation.

“We know this is the most powerful planning instrument we have, enshrined in law, but the original proposal completely failed to take that into account,” Hamilton said.

“We know we need housing, and we’re committed to make this happen, but not at the expense of our natural resources. So, it’s good to see this now explicitly acknowledged in the Bill because we fought hard for that.”

“Heritage has also been given a lot more weight which is another thing we raised. So we’ve had some wins. But we still have a lot of work ahead of us to see how this will pan out for Hamilton and what it will mean for some of our neighbourhoods. Whatever happens, there are big changes for the city ahead.”

Mayor Southgate said it was pleasing to see some of Council’s feedback taken on board, including an acknowledgement that well progressed areas like Peacocke, could continue. But she remained concerned about the three-storey rule being applied everywhere which she said would go down “like a lump of lead”.

And she was disappointed the proposals still failed to address the significant funding gap for infrastructure which will enable more houses to be built fast.

“The elephant in the room remains and that’s funding. We can’t build more homes without having to build more infrastructure or at least expand the infrastructure we already have. We are talking huge dollars. We don’t have the money to do it and we can’t ask ratepayers to pay more. Quite simply, something must change.”

Council would continue to lobby Government around innovative ways to address the funding gap, she said.

The changes aimed at allowing more housing are expected to come into law on 16 December this year. Councils will be expected to make changes to their planning rules to meet the requirements by August 2022.

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