16 Sep 2021

Rural towns in Central Hawke's Bay eyed for housing development

6:44 pm on 16 September 2021

Locals in a small, rural North Island district are worried a proposed large housing development will destroy their beloved landscape.

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The rural section in Onga Onga where the houses will be built. Photo: Supplied / Property Brokers

Sandra and Garth Ellmers want to build more than 300 homes near the towns of Tikokino and Onga Onga in Central Hawke's Bay.

But third-generation Onga Onga farmer Andy Gunson said it would be a "shantytown".

"A shambles, I think the local council or the regional council or whoever's at the top should stop it."

He had lived his whole life in the small community of about 150 people.

"New Zealand is growing, don't get me wrong, but we've already got areas set up for that now as I mentioned - Napier, Hastings, Waipuk[urau], Waipawa, here in Onga [Onga], Tikokino up the road. There's enough infrastructure around for people to go and buy houses and sections where it is already without that there happening."

Cushla Isaacson agreed.

"To me, it wouldn't be an asset, and to me it's not lifestyle blocks, it would be another town."

Central Hawke's Bay Mayor Alex Walker said there was a huge housing need in the district, as growth was happening much faster than the council's boldest predictions.

"This is a level of growth that we have not see in Central Hawke's Bay since probably mid-last century, the '50s and '60s - the rate of housing growth. Three years ago we looked at predictions of growth in the district that said we'd probably be looking at 1000 new houses over the space of 10 years. Well, we're about to hit that only three years in."

Central Hawke’s Bay mayor Alex Walker says the district’s seeing growth it hasn’t seen since the 1950s and ‘60s.

Central Hawke's Bay Mayor Alex Walker says the district is seeing growth it has not seen since the 1950s and '60s. Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

She was all for new development that enhanced a "thriving Central Hawke's Bay".

But she did not believe the development met her vision for the district.

"We've got a number of small towns across Central Hawke's Bay who all have their little bit of character and they're just that little bit of different lifestyle living and we need to be nurturing that, and building on what we've got, rather than creating anything new.

"But in saying that, we have had some successful rural lifestyle developments, like on River Rd in Patangata, where people are enjoying living a rural lifestyle in Central Hawke's Bay, so it can be done well and it can be done in a sensitive way, so this, it could work out."

Also under a newly proposed district plan, the development would not be able to go ahead, in favour of protecting fertile soils.

But the developers applied early - before the district plan change, so these new rules would not apply to them.

Some locals in the small town of Onga Onga say the proposed neighbouring development isn’t needed.

Some locals in the small town of Onga Onga say the proposed neighbouring development isn’t needed. Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

Developer Sandra Ellmers had been farming the area for several years.

She said it would help solve the housing crisis in the region and country.

"Well I think you'd only need to open any newspaper or switch on any media and you'll soon see that there's a dire housing shortage right over New Zealand pretty much, from one end to the other," she said.

She was happy to talk over concerns with anybody.

"I think most people are nervous about anything new, primarily because they don't really understand what's happening. They've had a look at the plan and they've thought, 'aw, they're all jammed in like sardines and all those people living on top of one another,' when it couldn't be further from that.''

The section sizes range from about an acre to over a hectare.

The subdivision's application process is before the Central Hawke's Bay District Council.

Walker said public consultation could be on the cards if it was required by law.

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