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The first stage of a 350-home government-led housing development at Ngongotahā will be fast-tracked under a new Covid consenting law because it promises to bring more than 470 full-time jobs and help fix Rotorua’s dire
Those behind the development at 31 Ngongotahā Rd say the fast-tracked consent process did not mean corners had been cut.
Rotorua and Ngongotahā residents will get the chance to see more detailed plans for the development this month at community drop-in sessions.
If consents were approved, work would start on the first 215 homes on the 15.9ha site at the end of this year. The first stage would take five years.
Developers intended to use locals from the building and infrastructure sectors and said employment would flourish with flow-on effects of more people working and living in the area.
The site was first considered for housing in 2018 but concerns about flooding and congestion led to its eventual rejection by Housing Minister Megan Woods.
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development bought the site last year and has signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work with Auckland developer Watchman Residential to build 350 publicly and privately owned homes over a decade.
In June, the project was referred to an expert consenting panel through the Ministry for the Environment after being accepted for fast-track consenting under the Covid-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting Act 2020) and a resource consent application is about to be lodged by Watchman Residential.
Company director Marcus Jacobson told the Rotorua Daily Post it had been concentrating on completing the design as well as the flood modelling and hazard assessment.
Jacobson said they had now finished detailed architectural, landscape and civil engineering plans and these would be shared with locals.
Developers met with local Māori last week and drop-in sessions will be held for the wider Ngongotahā community this month.
Residents could review the designs and flood modelling, including a planned wetland to be built. There would also be traffic, landscape and ecology plans and development team members present to answer questions.
Jacobson said the community could be reassured “fast-tracking” a consent process, did not mean “skipping” vital due diligence work.
He said if anything, more information was being collected and provided to the consenting panel to ensure the development was viable and the community felt confident.
He said the initial application to use the fast-track consenting process was in December and he expected to have an answer on if resource consent was approved “in a year”.
In his experience, the traditional council resource consent process “would have taken two years”.
He said his company had recently finished a similar smaller development on Koutu’s Frank St in Rotorua and that too employed locals.
As part of the fast-track process, Jacobson said they had to provide an economic report on how the Ngongotahā development would benefit the community.
“It’s not just about the construction, it’s the peripheral things as well with having people working in the area and what does that mean?”
He said, for instance, more people could be employed at nearby eateries to provide food for workers.
He said one of the key messages for locals was “this is not a Kāinga Ora development”. Homes would be owned by a mix of private individuals, investors and the Government in partnership with community housing providers.
“This isn’t about bringing people from Fenton St into these homes … But Rotorua is short of houses and we are trying to help solve this crisis.”
Ngāti Ngararanui kaumātua Wallace Haumaha said he was among a group shown the latest proposals last week.
He said their focus was on protecting the Waitetī Stream, near the development, and they needed to be assured the right systems and infrastructure would be in place.
“The generations of Ngāti Ngararanui have lived close to the river and it is deeply important to us. The awa is who we are, a taonga (treasure) and the mauri (life force) of Ngāti Ngararanui. We must be involved in the development of any project that impact our awa.”
Haumaha said development was inevitable and they too were concerned about the lack of housing but they would continue to sit alongside the developers to get the assurances descendants needed.
The Ministry for the Environment’s website said reasons the Ngongotahā project was approved included providing 479 full-time jobs over five years and increasing Rotorua’s housing supply.
It said any effects on the environment and proposed mitigations could be “appropriately tested by an expert consenting panel” in line with the Resource Management Act.
A Ministry of Housing and Urban Development spokesperson said in response to Rotorua Daily Post questions the fast-track consenting legislation was for projects that promised to boost employment and economic recovery in response to Covid-19.
Watchman had also been working with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Rotorua Lakes Council to ensure the scheme plan and development works met their requirements.
A consent application for bulk earthworks was submitted to the regional council on August 23 and if that was approved site preparation works would start at the end of the year.
The ministry said the development was part of the Government’s commitment under the Rotorua Housing Accord to reduce Rotorua’s chronic housing shortage and reduce the need for emergency housing to near zero.
Kelly Makiha is a senior journalist who has reported for the Rotorua Daily Post for more than 25 years, covering mainly police, court, human interest and social issues.

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