The Hastings District Council, Napier City Council and the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council — at long last and commendably — are jointly undertaking a strategy to provide for the urban development needs of the Heretaunga Plains area from 2015 to 2045.

On Tuesday, the Hastings Council released important documents that describe the scope of work to be completed, the work plan and timetable, and the public consultation that is envisioned. The pertinent materials – most importantly, for now, the Data Needs Review (which provides a complete overview of the project and the issues it will address) and the Consultation Plan – are available here.

As the Consultation Plan says: “The aim of the Heretaunga Plains Urban Development Strategy (HPUDS) is to ensure that an integrated implementation plan for urban development within the Heretaunga Plains is developed, including the infrastructure and social network requirements that are part of the urban fabric, while recognising the value of the Heretaunga Plains.”

The geographic scope of this planning exercise is quite broad, covering the Heretaunga Plains including the small rural settlements on the fringes such as Maraekakaho, Puketapu, and Paki Paki. The coastal settlements of Waimarama, Ocean Beach, Te Awanga and Haumoana also fall into the study area, as does Waipatiki on the northern boundary.

The strategy will identify:

• Where growth will go and desired density (It is worth noting that up-to-date population and household growth projections have been identified as “the greatest area of need” in the Data Needs Review);
• What the sequence of development should be and the timetable/or triggers;
• The criteria for establishing the boundaries to urban growth;
• What infrastructure is needed, particularly transportation and drainage; and,
• The budget implications.

Get the picture? This exercise is all about accommodating presumed physical growth. If you happen to believe “less is more” or in “quality over quantity,” you had better sharpen your pencils and prepare to dedicate a lot of consultation time in the coming months!

As you can imagine, all sorts of issues will be raised in the course of this initiative – future demographics, housing densities, water and waste management, climate change impacts, economic growth drivers, land use and soil protection, environmental considerations, transportation and other infrastructure needs, Maori perspectives, and so forth. Scarcely any person or any interest in the Bay will be unaffected.

A key step in the process will be 3-4 weeks of consultation around three alternative growth scenarios for the region. These could be tabled in the October timeframe. Subsequent work will be driven by the choice of a preferred growth scenario. How these scenarios are constructed, the integrity of the supporting data, and the values they embody will be of paramount importance.

Then, next year, in the April/May timeframe, formal consultation will occur around the proposed strategy, with submissions to and hearings by the Joint Committee that supervises the project for the three Councils.

The current timetable calls for the Strategy to be adopted officially by the end of June 2010! Seems rather ambitious to me.

With so much at stake, BayBuzz urges you to get informed and pay attention! We’ll do our best to help you along the way.

Tom Belford

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