BayBuzz has never hesitated to ‘take on’ councils when it appeared their performance was underwhelming or just plain wrong-headed.
And we’re pretty jaded when it comes to ‘processing’ councils’ self-congratulatory media releases and ribbon-cutting photo opps.
So we looked with some skepticism at a recent release from the Hastings District Council titled Steady progress on developments for housing in Flaxmere.
For paragraph after paragraph exciting developments were described – 150 new homes, redesign of the town centre, new stormwater and water mains, planning for new skate park and basketball court space. Here’s the release.
It reads as though the Good Fairy had suddenly floated over Flaxmere and emptied her entire load of fairy dust over the oft-neglected suburb. Or did Flaxmere win the Lotto?
So we sent an inquiry over to Mayor Hazlehurst … this all sounds too good to be true. Why was it happening now? Is it just an opportunistic grab at Government housing guilt and Covid-relief money? Who is benefitting?
The Mayor was kind enough to reply, so I hand the floor to her.
From Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst …
Why is this happening now in Flaxmere?
Council has worked with Flaxmere on major upgrades of its facilities over the past decade; it has been a focus of mine both as a councillor and since becoming mayor.
Over the years that has included the complete rebuild of the playground in the award-winning Flaxmere Park, followed by a refresh three years ago, and upgrades of the swimming pool complex, community centre and two smaller playgrounds.
The Ministry of Education rebuild of both Flaxmere College and Te Kura o Kimi Ora are also strong indicators of the positive investment that is going into Flaxmere. In support, Council financially assisted with the development of the shared community and school playground at Kimi Ora.
But we have always known that more was needed and we are working hard for Flaxmere. For our Council, it is about empowering and strengthening the wellbeing of the Flaxmere community.
These latest intertwined projects, the building of a new skate facility and new houses, driven by the housing crisis that has developed over the last three years, build on that work.
They coincide with a great partnership with Basketball New Zealand, Basketball Hawke’s Bay and Sport Hawke’s Bay on the national trial of the Hoops in Parks programme.
It is fair to say that Government’s financial support for Hastings Placed-based Housing Plan has enabled the home building. It is also the culmination of many years of working very hard to develop relationships with businesses and organisations across the community that we are really excited to see this traction.
The aim is to build quality homes that residents will be proud of at a price point and with caveats that make them available to first home buyers and low-income earners.
To enable that, Council has prepared a sales model specific to Council’s developments. For example, buyers have to commit to living in the homes for a minimum of five years, which precludes developers and landlords from buying them to add to their business, and schemes such as rent-to-buy and shared equity are being developed with appropriate partners.
Our building partners are being selected based on their ability to supply quality homes at an affordable price.
Broad community benefit
The Flaxmere housing developments are part of a much wider initiative (Hastings Place-based Housing Plan) that has very broad community benefit.
It is not limited to Flaxmere, although that is where Council held the most land that could be used for mixed-model housing at a scale that would impact our housing crisis.
For example, working with our partners there have also new papakāinga built across the district (we have the most papakāinga in a rohe of anywhere in New Zealand), and plan changes enabling inner city living and RSE housing (to take pressure off the rental market).
Working closely with Kāinga Ora has seen more than 100 new social homes built and over another 100 under construction, and hundreds in planning.
With regard to the facilities outside of housing, Flaxmere’s new skate facility will bring it into line with our other main urban areas which already have new skate plazas, and there is every potential that the Hoops and Parks trial will roll out to other areas in Hastings (and nationwide).
BayBuzz’s response: credit is due.