Ngongotaha Angrily Rejects Council’s Special Housing Area Proposal

About 350 residents of Ngongotaha, 10 kilometres northwest of Rotorua city, left two information meetings on 5 and 10 April very angry that Mayor Steve Chadwick and Rotorua Lakes Council have asked Phil Twyford, Minister of Housing, to declare a Special Housing Area on the northern outskirts of their village, without notification and consultation.

“Under the pretext of improving the supply of affordable houses,” said Glenys Searancke, RDRR Chair, “the Mayor has used the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Act to ram through a proposal for sign off by the Minister of Housing Phil Twyford. It will see a mass housing estate built on rural land on the northern outskirts of one of our most beautiful villages. No wonder the villagers feel betrayed.”

It was only the information meeting organised by adjacent landowners and the RDRR, she said, that stung the Council into providing one of their own. But it backfired because officials presented only on process and the villagers did not have their concerns addressed.

“The residents’ fury focusses on six issues,” said Reynold Macpherson, RDRR Secretary. “The Council made decisions without notification and blocked community objections using a soon-to-expire Act. Worse, elected representatives were forbidden by the Chief Executive to attend the RDRR meeting, although three defied him.”

The villagers are appalled that Council is repeating the mistake of authorizing houses to be built on ex-swampland. They are disgusted, he said, by Council not consulting mana whenua who safeguard the Waiteti Steam and don’t want an urupa bulldozed. They bitterly resent social outcomes that will alter the character of their village. They point to the traffic congestion and the absence of an infrastructure plan. In sum, he said, the proposal offends their community, cultural and environmental values.

Mayor Steve Chadwick claims that the development is needed to cope with population growth. The RDRR rejects this as an exaggeration by a mayor who has repeatedly promised 1000 new homes by 2019. Population growth projections of 0.72 per cent per annum can be met by building about 190 new homes annually. This can be achieved, the RDRR argues, through infill, intensification and gentrification projects and a modest expansion of social housing. If the Mayor’s Labour Minister mate signs off, Ngongotaha will get a mass housing estate built on relatively cheap rural land adjacent to their iconic village.

Read the story on Scoop here.

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