By Gavin Ion, Chief Executive, Waikato District Council
As you will have read over the last week or so, Prime Minister Bill English announced on 11 July that Waikato District Council was successful in its application for $37 million from the Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund. Council’s application for a share of this Fund aims to facilitate housing development in Te Kauwhata to meet the demands of a rapidly growing north Waikato community.
Accessing the fund is a unique opportunity for both Government and Council to support the demand for more affordable housing in the north Waikato and cater for the spillover effects of growth from Auckland. Much of the district’s growth is caused by internal migration as Aucklanders look for more affordable housing options and alternative lifestyles whilst still being within easy commuting district of Auckland. It is well known that we have a housing supply issue in this country; the Housing Infrastructure Fund is trying to address this by assisting Councils to get more houses to market faster.
People in Te Kauwhata have quite rightly been asking us about what this means for the future of our town. An important point to be aware is that for the Lakeside development in Te Kauwhata to proceed, the private plan change applicant will need to consult with the community and complete the correct RMA process. As it stands, the plan change has been received by the Council and we are awaiting further information from the developers. Currently, the private plan change is being processed by an independent external planner and will be heard by an independent external commissioner. There will be opportunities for local people to have their say.
If you are wondering how the funding for the infrastructure would work, it’s like this: The interest-free loan (that comes from the Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund) would be repaid within 10 years from the date of drawdown (there would likely to be a number of drawdowns over a period of time). Development Contributions (which are paid by developers towards the infrastructure) would pay for some of the repayments but there is also a benefit to existing ratepayers from improving environmental outcomes for Lake Waikare and the resilience of our wastewater network more generally. Accordingly, as would be the case regardless of whether or not this development were to go ahead, some of the cost would be paid for by all properties connected to the district wide wastewater scheme.
In terms of how fast this development could occur should the private plan change be successful, we would expect the market to dictate the speed of growth; which would see sections developed in an orderly way.
The bottom line for us is that we are growing rapidly, and as a Council it is our role to ensure we have the infrastructure in place, now and in the future, to manage this. Building consents statistics show Waikato district has overtaken Wellington to be the fourth highest-growth area in the North Island, and household growth rate projections indicate Waikato district will surpass Hamilton to match Auckland’s growth rate over the next 26 years.
The district’s proximity to Auckland, together with the lower median land and house prices available, has led to a steady uptake of zoned residential land in north Waikato including Te Kauwhata.