Wanaka planning on-track

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The Wanaka area is growing rapidly and a solid strategy is required to ensure it keeps the characteristics that make it special, a council planner says.

Queenstown Lakes District Council senior planning officer Craig Barr said the council was planning for population increases in a way that would ease pressure on the housing market and protect the lake front.

The council has developed an urban growth boundary (UGB) for Wanaka that keeps development away from the waterfront and instead directs urban development towards Cardrona Valley Rd.

People in Wanaka “care about the landscape” and wanted to “prevent sprawl”, he said.

The UGB would provide certainty about where growth could happen. It was a proactive approach that allowed the council to plan for development and infrastructure such as roading and water rather than having developers drive the plan, he said.

“UGBs can be unpopular but in this case we seem to have got it right,” he said.

The UGB had been planned to allow for the projected growth and had a buffer of more than 1500 new homes.

The UGB was the end result of the Wanaka 2020 exercise undertaken in 2003 and Wanaka Structure Plan review undertaken in 2007, he said.

It allowed for 6615 new homes with an estimated demand of 5000 new homes by 2048. During that time the resident population was expected to grow to 10,340 by 2015 and 22,509 by 2048.

Current high prices in the Wanaka area were contributed to by residential housing demand over the past 15 years which rose by nearly 7000 homes while supply fell short by more than 1000 homes.

“This latent demand is currently playing its role in the ongoing pressure on house prices and affordability,” he said.

The district had the highest prices in the country, an average price over $1,050,000 and a level of affordability that was only 35% overall and 8% for those under 40 years old, he said.
Rentals were also difficult to find as 33% of residential dwellings in the Wanaka area were used for short-term visitor accommodation. This was being made worse by online booking services, he said.

Proposed district plan (PDP) rules would enable greater flexibility to undertake medium density and infill housing in existing neighbourhoods. While this development would occur incrementally, it would provide more choices in terms of the types of housing and assist with the increase of supply, Mr Barr said.

The hearings on submissions on the PDP took all last year and a separate hearing stream was held to hear more than 100 rezoning requests in the Wanaka area. The hearings for Wanaka were completed in June. The changes should take effect by early next year, he said.

The council would continue to review its planning. This process would include the development of a government-required future growth strategy which would be a good opportunity to ensure planning remained on track, Mr Barr said.