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Crunch time for SmartGrowth

Crunch time for SmartGrowth

It’s crunch time for SmartGrowth.

Nearly a year after its adoption, the strategy that will shape the future of the western Bay of Plenty sub-region may soon be pinned down in law.

Environment Bay of Plenty, with the support of its local authority partners Tauranga City Council and Western Bay of Plenty District Council, wants to change the region’s paramount planning document, the Regional Policy Statement, to reflect SmartGrowth’s vision for managing growth in the sub-region over the next 20 to 50 years.

Because the Regional Policy Statement is a regulatory tool, the inclusion of SmartGrowth concepts will bind territorial authorities to them and “set them in stone”, says Environment Bay of Plenty’s Bryan Riesterer, chairman of the strategic policy committee.

“We engaged in major consultation for SmartGrowth so we know people strongly support its concepts in principle. Now the time has come to sort the details and get down to the nitty gritty of it,” Mr Riesterer says.

Over the next two months, Environment Bay of Plenty, Tauranga City Council and Western Bay of Plenty District Council will be go out into the community to gauge people’s opinion of the proposed changes. “We are seeking to understand how far people are willing to support SmartGrowth with regulatory ‘bite’. We want to know if they actually see a need for these changes. If so, do they want them to be specific or more flexible?”

For example, the regional council hopes to include maps setting the geographical limits for urban growth in Tauranga, Katikati, Te Puke and other centres. “But how sharp should the lines be? Should they be thin or thick and blurry? People need to talk to us about this, as it could affect their future.”

The Regional Policy Statement changes are also likely to affect people living in other parts of the region because of the Regional Settlement Strategy, a SmartGrowth statement about how the wider region should be settled over the next 20 to 50 years.

Key proposals are:

Urban limits

A key concept of SmartGrowth is to manage growth by setting urban limits, which promote logical, planned development and protect productive rural land. Environment Bay of Plenty wants to define the limits of urban growth with maps in the Regional Policy Statement, which would make them legally binding. In the case of these urban limits, the areas enclosed by them are large and properties on the edge are unlikely to be developed for many years. Also, urban boundaries have been drawn to follow topographical, servicing and other development constraints, so it is likely the outcome would be the same with or without council intervention. Environment Bay of Plenty put together a proposition for urban limits so staff would have something tangible upon which to base discussions with residents. As well as posting the maps on its website, Environment Bay of Plenty plans to send letters to every property potentially affected by the proposed limits. One of the important outcomes of consultation will be the refinement of these lines.

Live, Work, Play

The “live, work, play” philosophy is an integral part of SmartGrowth. Aspects include more people living in the same area (increased population density), a variety of transport choices, people living close to where they work and play, and good neighbourhood design. Environment Bay of Plenty believes the principles of “live, work, play” need to be included in the Regional Policy Statement but is not sure to what extent. “We would like to hear people’s views on this,”

Regional Settlement Strategy

The Regional Settlement Strategy is a statement about how the wider region should be settled over the next 20 to 50 years. As part of SmartGrowth, the strategy provides a common vision for regional growth that helps integrate the growth of districts with one another. It identifies major arterial roads and highways, the Port of Tauranga and its shipping lanes as important elements. It also talks of “Twin Cities” – a development focus between Rotorua and Tauranga.

Environment Bay of Plenty proposes including a Regional Settlement Strategy in the Regional Policy Statement, but having it as a relatively “soft” narrative rather than prescriptive policy.

The Regional Policy Statement amendments also look to reaffirm a commitment from territorial authorities to work with Tangata Whenua on Maori resource development and protection issues.

If the Regional Policy Statement is changed, it is likely to be publicly notified by June.

Environment Bay of Plenty has put together a discussion paper outlining the draft changes, plus four easy-to-read fact sheets about different aspects of it. Members of the public can call 0800 ENV BOP (368 267) for copies. Information will also be posted on http://www.envbop.govt.nz/. Or contact Environment Bay of Plenty resource planner James Low to talk over the issues. He is also available to talk to community groups on request.

Environment Bay of Plenty has organised a series of community meetings in different centres. An initial list includes:

• Katikati, Thursday 17 February, 4 to 7pm, Katikati Memorial Hall Lounge

• Waihi Beach, Wednesday 23 February, 4 to 7pm, Waihi Beach Community Centre

• Tauriko/Pyes Pa, Thursday 3 March, 4 to 7pm, Tauriko Hall

• Te Puke, Thursday 10 March, 4 to 7pm, Te Puke Memorial Hall Pioneer Room

• Welcome Bay/Ohauiti, Tuesday 22 March, 4 to 7pm, Ohauiti Hall

• Tauranga, Thursday 31 March, 4.30 to 7.30pm, Tauranga Council Chamber

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