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Tauranga Locals Call For Action

Mount Maunganui residents and business owners want action on an issue that threatens to irrevocably change an iconic part of New Zealand, after the views of an independent panel and ratepayers were set aside by the Tauranga City Council (TCC) Commissioners.

And they’re calling for all Tauranga mayoral and council candidates - as well all concerned Tauranga locals - to stand up and make their voices heard.

The outgoing TCC Commissioners controversially signed off Plan Change 33 - which will allow Mount Maunganui North to build up to 6 stories high (22 metres).

The proposal to double heights in Mount North received many months of written and vocal opposition from virtually all respondents to the brief public consultation window. The TCC Commissioners went to the expense of getting the issue heard by a four person, independent panel and commissioned extensive planning, design and engineering experts to support up to 22 m heights in Mount North.

The independent hearing panel came to the same conclusion as the overwhelming majority of feedback from local ratepayers and businesses – recommending that the permitted height limits for building development in Mount Maunganui North and Mount Downtown should be retained at 12 metres (4 stories), as set by the Medium Density Residential Standards (MDRS).

Incredibly, these recommendations have been set aside by the Commissioners in favour of a ‘one-size-fits-all approach’ that imposes a 22-metre height limit on land within a 5 minute walk of downtown the Mount.

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Kate Barry-Piceno, a Resource Management Specialist lawyer and member of the Mount Business Association, says “This planning decision will have a monumental impact on the character of Mount Maunganui North - an identity that is crucial not just to locals who live and work here but to the entire region.

“Mount Maunganui’s economic success is based on the Port of Tauranga and as a holiday destination that attracts visitors from across New Zealand and around the world – and has huge flow-on effects to the rest of the Bay of Plenty. It is a complex and delicate mix of two very different economic activities that have to be carefully managed.

“There’s already incredible pressure on transport and other infrastructure in many parts of Mount Maunganui. The huge increase in residents that further High-Rise intensification would bring will be too much for Mount North.

“It is essentially a narrow sandspit and cul-de-sac with limited access points. With so much of the area’s infrastructure already stretched to breaking point and traffic congestion and flood risk currently of a concern to local businesses and ratepayers - these are only set to worsen if the level of construction that new height restrictions will bring is allowed.”

Barry Brown, spokesperson for the Mount Matters Group, has been a ratepayer in the area for 35 years and brings 50 years of expertise in corporate law and legislation to the conversation.

“Tauranga City is extremely fortunate to have such important and complex planning matters addressed in a very thorough and well-reasoned report from a highly-credentialled independent expert Panel which had the benefit of receiving a vast amount of wide-ranging oral and written submissions and expert evidence from the Council, residents and others.

“We’re astounded that the Commissioners have ignored the panel’s recommendation. Many people have been writing to Minister for Housing, Infrastructure and RMA reform, Chris Bishop to express their concerns on this issue - and we’re calling for anyone who has concerns to do the same.

“The Mount doesn’t just belong to those who live there – it’s a much loved and hugely important economic driver for all of Tauranga. We can’t stand by and watch Mount Maunganui lose its identity. That’s why we need to take action.”

Experienced builder and born and bred resident Peter Cooney have also been vocal in his opposition.

“Lifting the height limit won’t provide a solution to the issues around increasing affordable or permanent housing for Tauranga, which were included in justifying Plan Change 33.

“Mount North apartments are primarily built and sold as holiday accommodation. The costs involved with land in this location and building to that height will dictate that the prices are set so high, that it will be out of reach for the vast majority of Tauranga residents.

“Development is important for the Mount - as it is with all areas of Tauranga and around the country - but there are better options that can achieve the desired outcome without risking destroying the Mount in the process.”

A public meeting is being held at Mount Maunganui Surf Lifesaving Club (21 Adams Ave) on Tuesday 18 June from 5.30pm - with all Tauranga Mayoral candidates and Mauao/Mount Maunganui Ward candidates invited to attend and encouraged to make their stance on the issue public prior to the upcoming elections.

Already, several Mayoral candidates have announced they share similar feelings to the concerned residents and businesses.

Brown says, “With local voters to finally again get the chance to decide who makes decisions on behalf of Tauranga in the upcoming election, it’s important that those who are elected know what is important to the people they will represent.”

Updates on the issue and the public meeting can be found on The Mount Matters Facebook page.

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