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Kāinga Ora Rejects Parks?

Rotorua reserves housing proposal: Council in talks with Kāinga Ora in September

Felix Desmarais, Local Democracy Reporter

Aerial view of Rotorua. Photo: LDR / Felix Desmarais

Communications between the government agency and the council, released under official information law, reveal Kāinga Ora's disinterest in four reserves which the council has now included in its proposal for sale to other developers.

Kāinga Ora rejected Wrigley St, Gallagher St and Park Rd Reserves, as well as Linton Park West.

It also reveals Kāinga Ora considered four other reserves for possible development - Waitawa Pl, Warwick Drive, Jessie Martin Park and Pūruru Reserve on Tārewa Rd.

An email on 9 September 2021 showed Linton Park West was ruled out as Kāinga Ora couldn't "pull a route through the site" and Pūruru because there was "no appetite to remove a neighbourhood playground, unless you know it's never used?"

Pūruru Reserve's status as a reserve under the Reserves Act was revoked on 6 September, after the council proposed in 2020 to return the gifted land to Ngāti Kearoa Ngāti Tūara to support marae programmes.

On Tuesday, Kāinga Ora said the sites were rejected due to access issues, a lack of services close by, stormwater issues, overhead powerlines, or a combination of those problems.

Draft design plans for Kāinga Ora sites were drawn up in December last year for seven reserves: Lee Rd, Waitawa Pl, Ranginui St, Coulter Rd, Wrigley Rd, Steeles Ln and High St.

The plans showed a yield of 99 lots for the seven reserves, with 21 for Wrigley Rd Reserve and 43 for Lee Rd Reserve.

In February, redone plans for Coulter Rd Reserve adjusted its yield from 14 to 12.

Plans for Turner Drive in the same month yielded 40 lots, before the council clarified it wanted to retain more of the reserve.

The council wrote to Kāinga Ora: "That occupies a lot more of the reserve than anticipated".

Kāinga Ora replied: "If this is not what is being offered please let me know urgently as redoing these plans is getting costly".

The plans were redrawn with 30 lots.

The council's current proposal, which was approved for public consultation on Thursday [26/05] considers six sites for sale to Kāinga Ora - on Lee Rd, Coulter Rd, High St, Glenholme Reserve, Turner Drive and Steeles Ln.

Gallagher St, Wrigley Rd, and Park Rd Reserves and Linton Park West are being considered for sale to other developers, including community housing providers.

The council's proposal states proceeds from sales would go towards the development or enhancement of the district's other reserves.

The council's proposal, which it will consider putting out for public consultation at its meeting on Thursday, also states the council prefers to enable the sale of reserves through a local bill process, rather than through the Reserves Act, as it is estimated that process would take two years or more.

One email, provided in the official information release and showing a redacted Kāinga Ora address, told the council in September due diligence on each reserve would cost taxpayers about $50,000.

In January, Kāinga Ora told the council it had received approval to obtain valuations for sites.

Local Democracy Reporting asked Kāinga Ora how much it had spent to date on inquiries and due diligence regarding its discussion with the council about the reserves.

Kāinga Ora Bay of Plenty regional director Darren Toy said the agency had used in-house planning and design expertise and had not incurred any external costs for that work.

It had used a specialist external geotechnical consultant as part of due diligence on potential reserve sites.

"As this work is ongoing we have not paid anything for this work at this stage."

Asked what the valuations for the sites were, he said Kāinga Ora would only get valuations once it knew sites were "suitable for building housing on"

"For these potential sites our due diligence work is ongoing so we have not sought any valuations at this time."

He said Kāinga Ora ruled some sites out because of access issues, a lack of services close by, stormwater issues, overhead powerlines "or a combination of any of these".

Asked how many times plans were redone and how much that cost, Toy said as internal planners and urban design teams completed the plans, no external costs were incurred.

"Only once did one set of plans need to be adjusted, where part of a reserve is planned to be kept, and again this was completed by our teams."

Asked for clarification on what the "getting costly" comment meant if it did not refer to cost, a Kāinga Ora spokeswoman said the "cost referred to is a time one rather than a direct financial one" due to the internal rather than external work.

"This referred to one of the reserves where we needed to do further work as the amount of reserve land initially proposed was later reduced to part of the reserve."

Kāinga Ora was also asked for clarification on its budget and or projected costs for the proposal.

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