Residents of Napier Hill are organising as Residents for Sustainable Housing to oppose a 61-unit townhouse development in the Hukarere Heights neighborhood.

Meanwhile, a potential 150+ home development west of Flaxmere is going through a “feasibility study” phase sanctioned by the Hastings Council.

It will be interesting to see how these two proposed developments play out in the coming year.

At first blush, the Hukarere Heights opposition seems to be of the NIMBY variety. But this is denied by spokesman Stuart Nash, who cites safety, scale and ambiance reasons. BayBuzz will get educated on the issues as the submissions process unfolds.

Over in Hastings, Councillors seem to be proceeding with reasonable caution on the Flaxmere project. Wellington developer Ian Cassels has been given the greenlight to progress a feasibility study of the so-called Matariki development project. This work should take six months.

As sketched out so far, the project — on land jointly owned by HDC, Ngati Kahungunu and Te Taiwhenua — would consist of approximately 150 1-4 bedroom homes plus communal outside spaces. The planned community must offer affordable and sustainable homes to satisfy wary Councillors, who don’t wish to repeat previous mis-development in Flaxmere.

Developer Cassels testfied recently to a Parliament select committee inquiry into housing affordability. As reported by the DomPost, he is an advocate of building houses of similar design at once on a large scale so that building costs can be lowered even while using high quality materials and insulation.

This seems to be the philosophy he proposes to apply to the Matariki project, which would be his first residential housing development.

BayBuzz spoke with a number of Councillors about the project, as well as with Murray Gilbertson, who had been shepherding it.

Some Councillors are concerned that homes will be too small and not of sufficient quality … and yet still end up not being affordable to single-wage-earner families. Gilbertson has indicated that the smallest, one-bedroom units might sell in the $125,000 range. But multi-bedroom (i.e., families with children) homes might be in the $200,000 (or more) range.

Other Councillors are simply being cautious while waiting for Cassels to flesh out the plan and assess its financial viability … he will need to generate $20-30 million in financing. Gilbertson suggested that Cassels’ firm, The Wellington Company, might take a less-than-full-market return on its investment so as to make the homes more affordable.

A committee consisting of Councillors Mick Lester, Wayne Bradshaw and Henare O’Keefe has been charged with monitoring progress on the project. BayBuzz, of course, is happy to volunteer as project scrutineer.

It is yet unclear whether any kind of formal public consultation will be required on the Matariki project. Conceivably the building plans as ultimately proposed might be so unique as to require a plan change.

Right now, even with very little news coverage, the project has decent approval in the current BayBuzz Big Spending Poll … 53% support it (25% strongly), while 30% oppose and 18% are undecided. [You can give your opinion in the BayBuzz Poll here.]

In any event, these two development projects deserve careful watching as they progress. One has already stepped in a cowpie; the other seems to be proceeding with appropriate caution.

Planning for sustainable growth comes down to making smart and strategically consistent decisions about individual projects … project after project after project. As Cynthia Bowers says in relation to the Matariki proposal: “It’s time we got it right.”


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