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Horowhenua District Council Withdraws Growth Plan For Waitārere Beach Due To Infrastructure Challenges

At the Council meeting on Wednesday 13 December 2023, Horowhenua District Council adopted the withdrawal of Proposed Plan Change 5 – Waitārere Beach growth area (PPC5).

Initially designed to address rapid population growth in Horowhenua, PPC5 aimed to rezone a 100ha block of land east of Waitārere Beach for future homes and commercial development in the Growth area. The proposed plan change was adopted and notified for submissions in March 2021.

David McCorkindale, Group Manager Community Vision and Delivery says the proposed plan change hasn't progressed to a hearing for several reasons. The most significant factor is understanding the impact of groundwater changes that were observed in 2022 and the management of the resulting overland stormwater flows across the Waitārere Beach settlement.

“At the time of notification, a report suggested sufficient capacity at the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) to accommodate growth. Heavy and long duration rainfall events, especially in 2021 and 2022, resulted in record high groundwater levels, resulting in ponding and flooding on private property and road reserve. Groundwater infiltration and stormwater entering the wastewater network at the time resulted in the wastewater plant operating at full capacity, unable to handle more demand without upgrades to the wastewater plant and improved stormwater management," explains McCorkindale.

Addressing this issue may require upgrades to the WWTP, additional stormwater management techniques, or both. However, investigating and deciding on these measures will take time and require careful consideration of their priority against other Council priorities and initiatives.

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“Moreover, the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) mandates councils to proceed to hearings and decide on proposed plan changes within two years of notification. Unfortunately, the Council is currently in breach of this timeframe. While the RMA allows for an extension, the timeframe for resolving the WWTP issues remains uncertain. This means seeking an extension is impractical, and fairness to submitters becomes a concern with prolonged delays.”

As a result, Council has adopted the recommendation to withdraw PPC5 until such time that the impact of groundwater level variations recently observed and the resulting impact these have on the WWTP are fully understood and a clear solution timeline is established.

Mayor Bernie Wanden clarifies, “Withdrawing PPC5 doesn't mean the end of development plans for Waitārere Beach. A large number of new developments are already consented or planning is underway. Once the wastewater treatment plant issues are resolved and the impact of fluctuating ground water levels have on the stormwater overland flows are well understood, then Council can revisit the development plan and initiate another Plan Change process.”

“This means the Operative District Plan provisions, including the existing zoning, will remain in place and the work done on PPC5 can potentially inform future plan change processes,” Mayor Bernie Wanden ends.

Council considered three options during the meeting: withdrawing the plan change, continuing to delay the plan change while exploring and resolving the issue, or proceeding to a hearing without a full resolution.

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