'Intensification on steroids': the controversial vote to grow Hāwea, again
More of Lake Hāwea could get filled up with smaller sections and more housing types after the Queenstown Lakes District Council opted to include an extra chunk of the township in a zone flagged for more intensive urban development.
The controversial change would allow for approximately 1,200 extra potential dwellings on the land, in a move one councillor is calling "intensification on steroids".
It was not a straightforward decision, with the motion passing by a slim majority at last Thursday's full council meeting after debate by councillors and a plea by the local residents group to leave it alone.
Elected members voted to include in the council's proposed Urban Intensification Variation to the Proposed District Plan land south of Cemetery Road recently rezoned for development.
The inclusion means section sizes would be allowed to be smaller, going from a minimum 450 square metres down to 300 square metres, increasing the residential capacity of the area from 1,621 to 2,894.
Meanwhile the maximum height of commercial buildings in the zone would increase to 12 metres.
It is the latest in a series of planning changes for the rapidly-growing lakeside settlement. At the end of May, the Environment Court overruled a previous QLDC call not to extend the urban boundary beyond Cemetery Road.
Now, the council's reasoning is if it's going to be developed, let's make the most of it.
In a report to help councillors with their decision, council senior policy planner Elias Matthee says the planning changes would allow more variety of housing providing more choice, and therefore helping with housing affordability.
Plus, increasing capacity for residential and commercial development “could increase the critical mass that could make a public transport link between Hāwea and Wānaka viable”.
But it could be a step too far for a community still reeling from the last change.
In an email to elected members sent prior to the meeting, Hāwea Community Association acting chairperson Cherilyn Walthew says the late-decision to include the newly-rezoned land felt “disrespectful” to the community, especially without any consultation and after it had just gone through a lengthy mediation process to "establish an outcome that will meet the needs of the community for the next 50 years".
Some elected members felt the same, and voted against the motion to intensify the additional land, including Wānaka-Upper Clutha councillor and Hāwea resident Cody Tucker, who said it undermined the process the community went through with the developers in the Environment Court.
Also speaking against the motion at the meeting, councillor Niki Gladding, who said although she wasn’t against intensification, she thought members of the public and iwi should be consulted before a decision is made.
Deputy mayor Quentin Smith also queried the speed at which the council was having to make its decision on what he considered a “substantive addition to an incredibly substantive addition to housing capacity in Lake Hāwea”.
Councillor Smith compared the situation to the Ladies Mile rezoning call, which has included master planning, infrastructure investments, and transport consultation with Waka Kotahi.
Given that councillors had only been given three weeks to process the new report, Mr Smith questioned if a “reasonable degree of rigor” was being applied to the level of intensification that had been proposed.
Councillor Esther Whitehead said from a non-planner’s perspective, and a community perspective, adding Lake Hāwea South to the variation felt like “intensification on steroids".
Like the deputy mayor, Councillor Whitehead expressed that it was a lot of information to process in a short period of time.
The motion passed six to five.
Councillor Lyal Cocks and Mayor Glyn Lewers expressed support, referencing the Joint Housing Action Plan, a council strategic document aimed at improving housing affordability across the district and endorsed unanimously by councillors at the same meeting.
Councillor Cocks pointed out there is still opportunity down the line for members fo the public to have their say on the proposed plan changes.
He said that making way for development now would “enable things to happen”, and since it was a greenfield development, it would be easier to action now, rather than going back and trying to add later.
In a written statement released yesterday (August 14), QLDC planning and development general manager David Wallace says it is important to note if the land at Lake Hāwea had been zoned urban when endorsement was sought from councillors to notify the proposed variation, it would have been included in the original Urban Intensification Variation proposal.
The proposed plan variation will be notified on Thursday, August 24 and then open for public submissions.