There appears to be some confusion around just what Council can and cannot do about the supply of residential sections, says Hastings District Council economic development group manager Craig Cameron.
Council’s role is to zone land in a way that allows the best residential development for the district, and install infrastructure (pipes, pumps and roads etc) for the development. It has to do that in a way that is not going to be costly for ratepayers.
Putting in those systems is costly, and Council has an obligation not to spend money on infrastructure that may not be needed in the reasonably near future.
To help the process Council talks with landowners of likely areas for urban development to try and ascertain whether they are likely to be interested in developing or selling the land for development in the near future.
While Council does not need landowner permission to rezone land, it has a policy of consulting with owners as there is little point in rezoning land and putting in the roads and pipes if the effect is not going to be the desired outcome – new sections for sale.
What Council cannot do is:
Tell a landowner they have to divide their land into sections
Tell a landowner when to sell their sections
Tell a landowner how to sell their sections (eg: to a particular group; with/without house plans)
Tell a landowner how much to sell their sections for
“Having said that, central government has recently raised the possibility of using the Public Works Act to compulsorily buy land from owners who are ‘land banking’, however at this time no such powers exist,” says Mr Cameron.
Across Hastings and Havelock North there are about 75 empty sections that do not have buildings on them or building consents lodged for them. They are available for building, however Council cannot control whether they are available to be on-sold.
On top of that there is currently another 13 hectares of land ready for subdivision across three areas in Hastings and Havelock North. That land provides enough room for about 188 sections based on the average new section size in the district. “This land is in the hands of its owners who will determine the timing of development and sale.”
It is no secret that with the extension of the Arataki subdivision off the table at this time due to issues outside of Council’s control, there are less sections being developed than Council had hoped. Work is ongoing that will address that problem; however Council again stresses that ultimately the number of sections that make it to market depends on the owners of the land involved.
The plan (as set out at the recent residential land supply forum) is:
“There is no doubt that our growing economy, increasing interest in relocating to Hastings by people from outside of the area, and historically low interest rates all contributing to strong demand for vacant sections.”
In the face of that Council is continuing to identify potential areas of residential growth for the next 30 years while ensuring any expansion into high value growing land is carefully managed. It is also encouraging higher levels of building within current urban areas.
The residential areas Council is working on bringing forward are Lyndhurst stage 2 (estimated section numbers 270) in Hastings, with the land ready for subdivision by August 2107, subject to landowner negotiations and any appeals. Also in Hastings, in Howard St, the subdivision of 230 sections should be able to start in December 2017, subject to the same things.
Iona Rd (including southern Havelock Hills), about 400 sections, should be ready for subdivision by September 2018, again subject to negotiations and appeals.
Another 350 sections should be available through the proposed Brookvale subdivision, however timings on that have not been set. It will be subject to checking whether odour issues which have affected the Arataki extension subdivision affect it.
More areas are on the drawing board for further into the future and Council is working on ways to ensure it can react as quickly as possible to market changes. “That has to be balanced with the need to take care not to compromise the growing land that it is at the heart of our economy, and the need to ensure we don’t saddle ratepayers with unnecessary loans,”
The big jobs: Zoning and putting in infrastructure
It is a fact that there are a number of time consuming steps to getting land to a point where it is ready for subdividing; among them zoning, managing the legal processes around any objection to that zoning, and planning and installing the pipes, pumps, roads and other infrastructure that a new subdivision requires. In some cases, buying land to allow for those pipes and roads to be put in can also be quite a lengthy process.
Council plans subdivisions to be where people are most likely to want to live, and where putting in the infrastructure required (roads, pipes, playgrounds etc) will be the most cost-effective.
It is then a case of ‘hooking into’ the existing system, and extending it to the new area, but that is not as easy as it sounds.
Pumps managing water and sewerage systems in the existing system near the new site need to be assessed to see if they can cope with the load that the extension will put upon it. If they will not, then remedies, such as replacing pumps or putting in bigger pipes, need to be factored in to the budget and the work programme.
The management of rain run off (storm water) also needs to be decided, and that means working with Hawke’s Bay Regional Council as that comes under its jurisdiction. If expected run off is greater than the regional council’s system can cope with, then sumps and pumps might be needed to slow down the flows during high rain events.
The infrastructure is designed to last 100 years, so putting in the best plans to achieve that aim requires a great deal of planning and attention to detail.
Once those issues are solved, then the work must start, including financing, tendering, purchasing, and building.
Who pays for what?
Council arranges a loan to pay for the pipes, pumps and roads from the nearest already developed area to and through a new subdivision. As the area is developed Council is repaid the cost of the infrastructure. If the land is not developed or the uptake is slow, then Council (i.e. the ratepayer) carries the cost of the loan.
This is why councils plan new subdivisions as close to already developed areas as possible, to limit the cost of getting essential services to a new area, thereby saving money and limiting the risk to ratepayers.
Council staff have had some very good discussions with members of the development community over the last few weeks and are keen to set up a way to provide people with the latest information on just where development issues and opportunities are up to.
“We have an opportunity to step up our communications with people and businesses in the industry, and are looking to quickly do so,” says Mr Cameron.
4 October 2017
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