Tauranga city has reached ‘crisis’ point in ‘legacy of underinvestment’, meeting told

Tauranga has reached a crisis point with experts predicting housing shortfalls of up to 5000 and a $2.5 billion loss in GDP because of a “legacy of underinvestment”.

The figures were discussed in a Tauranga City Council meeting yesterday as part of a public workshop in which council staff and commissioners discussed issues the city was facing as part of a draft Long-term Plan for 2021 – 2031.

Tauranga City Council chief executive Marty Grenfell told the meeting Tauranga was in a land, housing and rental affordability crisis.

The city’s transport network was congested and there was an infrastructure deficit that resulted in annual water restrictions. There was a growing and economic divide between the haves andhave-nots and the central business area was in decline and lacking public space and amenity, he said.

“We are faced with a legacy of investment that has not catered for the current population let alone the future growth of our city.”

Grenfell said the Long-term Plan was the plan for “now and the future”.

General manager of strategy and growth Christine Jones provided figures revealing Tauranga would be short of 1300 houses by 2024.

“This will grow to 5000 houses sort by the end of the 10-year period.”

The lack of homes was expected to be felt particularly in the Te Tumu and Tauriko west areas.

The economic impact from this is expected to be $2.5b cumulative GDP loss over 10 years and between 1140 to 1680 construction jobs lost in a 10-year timeframe.

In an update regarding the city’s transport infrastructure, general manager for infrastructure Nic Johansson said there were several high-priority projects that desperately needed funding.

“Again [because of] a legacy of underinvestment – transport and waters are at absolute capacity. Transport is at saturation at certain times; water is good but not carrying its own cost. We know that because of the debt that is carrying already.”

Johansson provided a breakdown of transport projects of priority and what money was needed to fund them. They were 15th Ave and Turret Rd ($55m); Hewletts Rd and Totara St ($118m); Bus infrastructure ($52m); cycleways ($165m); Eastern Corridor ($138m); Western Tauriko ($125m); and Te Papa including Stage 2 of the Cameron Rd upgrade ($391m).

Commission chairwoman Anne Tolley questioned Johansson regarding the funding for bus infrastructure, saying $52m was a lot more for an “ineffective and inefficient” service than what ratepayers could be prepared to pay.

Tolley then asked Johansson whether, despite all of the investment being discussed, there would still be congestion. He replied, “in some areas, yes”.

Tolley labelled Tauranga’s transport level of service “absolutely abysmal”.

Commissioner Stephen Selwood asked what the ratio of people using private vehicles was expected to be in 10 years’ time.

Johansson said the number of people using private vehicles as their primary transport was likely to reduce to about 80 per cent in the next 10 years from the current 90 per cent.

Selwood said that was about the same ratio as Auckland.

Johansson said: “We are behind, there are no two ways about it. It’s part of that legacy. Over the last few years, we’ve had very little investment in transport.”

General manager of community services Gareth Wallis said the council’s underinvestment in community facilities, over an extended period of time, meant “many of the assets that the city has are worn out or at end-of-life”.

“Yes, we can get the gaffa tape and super glue out to keep fixing things but inevitably, at some point, we have to replace or significantly improve things.”

Examples included the Memorial Park swimming pool built in 1995 having “significantly escalating year-on-year costs”; Elizabeth St, Merivale and Welcome Bay community centres, built in 1960, 1965, and 1977 respectively, in varying stages of deterioration; “significant seismic issues” with the Wharepai Domain grandstand that was built in 1962 and the weather tightness issues, seismic issues, deteriorating glazing, dampness and odour issues plaguing the city’s central library that was built in 1989.

Despite the deterioration, Tauranga’s increasing population meant such facilities were experiencing increased demand. This was putting “even more pressure on an already stretched network”, Wallis said.

Selwood said: “We are going to have to make some tough decisions about where we prioritise this investment going forward.

“If we don’t make decisions now we will be paying the price for it in another decade.”

The council will now include commissioner suggestions into the draft Long-term Plan. It will next be discussed on March 15, when the plan will be provided to be audited. The plan could potentially go out for public consultation from March 29.

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