by Geoffrey Churchman

Those who follow happenings at KCDC will have heard the discussions over the Jacinda government’s plans for “housing density intensification” which in essence means allowing developers to build up with taller buildings rather than out by buying up open land and turning it into subdivisions. A council Media Release from last week is reproduced below.

More needs to and will be said about this, but the important thing is that it will override the existing Kapiti District plan which has height limits in place that generally prevent more than two stories. The height limit in residential zones at present is 8 metres [26 feet] above the natural ground level in all parts of the footprint, so you can get away with 3 levels if your lot (section) is a sloping one. However, the vast majority of housing in Waikanae is on flat or reasonably flat terrain.

But the broader question is, why do we need to have such a change? The quick answer is provided with the sentence below: “Kāpiti is expecting to grow by more than 30,000 residents within the next 30 years and we estimate we’ll need another 16,200 houses by 2051.” (By houses is meant dwellings including apartments in multi-story blocks.)

With the number of homeless in Jacindaland (defined as people without a permanent dwelling) now in 6 figures (see here) there is a need for more available housing just for them. The waiting list for a state house has grown 4 times since the Jacinda government has been in power and now stands at around 25,000.

We need more houses for the many who don’t have one now, but continued population growth will only add to the problem. Population growth from natural increase — more births than deaths — is around 24,000 a year but that gets added to by net migration which has been running at between 70,000 to 90,000 per year under both National- and Labour-led governments since 2000.

Zero Population Growth became a strong theme in the 1970s. At the time in my view it was a way off being needed in NZ as the then population of a bit over 3 million was on the light side — we needed somewhere between 4 and 5 million. That stage has now been reached.

The more people there are, the more physical resources get consumed, the more infrastructure is needed, and the more housing is needed. Local Waikanae historian John Robsinson has made his findings about the problem clear in his book A Plague of People — see here.

We don’t want the government to start telling people how many babies they should have as China has done, but the government needs to slam the brakes on immigration with very tight criteria about who can migrate to New Zealand / Nu Tirani.

This shows the rate of population growth has increased in the last 2 to 3 decades.

Kāpiti Coast District Council is to consult on a draft District Plan change which is needed to meet new Government requirements to allow property owners to build up to three homes of up to three stories on most residential sites.

The plan change would also enable further intensification in urban areas that are in or near the Paraparaumu metropolitan centre, local and town centres throughout the district, and around our train stations south of the Ōtaki River. It also includes rezoning some small parcels of land within or near existing urban areas for general residential use.

District Planning Manager Jason Holland said enabling more medium density housing and higher development in local and town centres would go a long way to addressing the district’s housing shortage. Concerns about Government-mandated intensification could be partially managed with careful planning, appropriate policies, and good design, he said.

“Kāpiti is expecting to grow by more than 30,000 residents within the next 30 years and we estimate we’ll need another 16,200 houses by 2051. We need to accommodate those people, so change is inevitable.”

The Council’s new growth strategy for the next 30 years, Te Tupu Pai, guides the proposals in the draft intensification plan change. The growth strategy emphasises compact urban form and good design that ‘considers, protects, and enhances Kāpiti’s natural and built environments’, Mr Holland said.

The plan change must allow medium density housing across the general residential zone, including ‘special character’ areas like the Waikanae Garden Precinct and the beach precincts.

“We have to enable further intensification of these areas because ‘special character’ is not a qualifying matter. But we will keep existing protections for historic heritage, notable trees, and indigenous vegetation.

“For developments in these areas that need a resource consent, we have added new policies that require them to recognise those areas’ valued characteristics.”

The draft plan change also proposes new design guides to promote high-quality urban design in developments that require resource consent.

The draft plan change enables housing and community developments (papakāinga) for iwi on their ancestral land. Council is working closely with mana whenua on the District Plan provisions for these.

The draft plan change also proposes a mechanism to maintain existing development rules in some coastal areas while the Takutai Kāpiti project looks at adaptation options for these areas.

“In the draft plan change we recommend applying a ‘coastal’ qualifying matter to defined areas along the coast. This would mean no changes to the existing rules while the Takutai Kāpiti Coastal Advisory Panel discusses how we plan for future changes to our coastline with our community.”

Council will consult on the draft plan change from Monday 4 April – 4 May 2022, consider written feedback, then publicly notify the next version (called the “proposed” plan change) in July 2022 which will then also be consulted on and go through a formal hearing process. Council must publicly notify the proposed intensification plan change by a statutory deadline of 20 August 2022.