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Why more houses here?

See the first post in this series: What we have and what we need in February 2018.

Forecasts suggest that Horowhenua will experience considerable population growth in the next couple of decades. The Council have to make plans to deal with that. Their preferred option (as far as Waikawa Beach is concerned) is to rezone land around our village so it can provide more housing. See the map below.

Draft residential growth at Waikawa Beach.

Draft residential growth at Waikawa Beach.

We know this because of the Horowhenua District Council's 2018-38 Long Term Plan, along with several associated documents and the Horowhenua Growth Strategy 2040.

There's a lot of information to absorb from those two documents and the half dozen associated documents.

I've spent a few hours now reading, highlighting (and, I admit, sometimes skimming) all the documents. I've spent more hours pondering. There are, of course, many things we should look at, such as what the Council will spend their money on, and whether they should close facilities such as community halls.

But there are just three items in the Plan that are of pressing importance for us at Waikawa Beach, not because we're asking for them but because the Council are interested in creating growth in our little corner of Horowhenua:

  1. More houses.
  2. Drinking water on tap.
  3. Waste water disposal.

More houses

In this post I want to highlight a few points about More houses. In other posts I'll look at the water issues.

The Council believes that the new Expressways will push growth in the southern parts of the district and so it has turned its attention to Waikawa Beach, Manakau and others. The map above shows their thinking on where more houses could go around Waikawa Beach if they change the zoning.

Waikawa Beach Road tsunami line.

Waikawa Beach Road tsunami line.

The one road

We have a single road connecting us to SH1. That road is a bit narrow and has several sections where floods may occur, along with some bends that require caution. By the way: in talking to the roading folks at the Council the Waikawa Beach Ratepayers Association has learned that the road is standard width. What we don't have though for most of it is a shoulder. We do have often soggy grass verges.

It feels narrow.

We also share it with farm vehicles, milk tankers, people towing loaded trailers or horse floats, and assorted trades vehicles, especially when there's house building going on.

Additional land allocated for housing will increase the traffic, both temporarily while building is going on, and in the long-term with additional residents and visitors.

By the way, about those soggy grass verges: The Council's Infrastructure document, Page 13 tells us:

In the long term it is expected climate change will have two principal impacts on the Horowhenua District — an increased risk from severe natural hazards, and a gradual change in environmental conditions such as rainfall and tide levels.

Over the next 40 years it is expected … enhanced westerly winds will occur, heavy rain will become more frequent, and average rainfall will increase.

Our road is already at risk of flooding after big rain. More rain will increase the flood risk and make those verges even soggier.

Why make settlements bigger?

Why here? In fact, my question is: why are Council looking at enlarging our existing settlement, rather than setting up a new settlement nearby. While looking at maps it seems, for example, that there is land between Whakahoro Road and Kuku Beach Road that isn't zoned as Versatile Land (that means 'the good stuff where things grow') and which doesn't appear to be Māori Land. That's just an example.

I can understand adding houses on the edges of places like Levin where there is already infrastructure such as pipes and whatnot. But we don't have much here at the moment. Council plans on providing us with drinking water and wastewater disposal in order to promote growth.

Why not set up a new, separate settlement and provide those things there?

I'll talk more about water in another post, although it's hard to separate it from the housing issue.

Adding houses to Waikawa Beach adds pressure to this little spot: more people, more traffic, more risk for kids biking along our streets, more trades vehicles, more pressure on our aquifer. Our sleepy backwater will become more wakeful and watchful, noisier and busier.

More people means more 'services', more streetlights and house lights to damage our dark skies, more houses taking land away from frogs, birds, insects and horses and farm animals.

Why not set up a new settlement nearby, reducing those pressures and spreading the population load?

I could make the same point for all the other settlements the Council plans to enlarge: Manakau, Ōhau, Waitārere Beach, Foxton and others. There is a fundamental assumption that existing settlements should be enlarged, on some inevitable path from village to town to city.

Why not create additional settlements, spreading the load on the environment, on roads and other services, and giving people the quality of life that comes with quiet small communities?

My emphasis in the quote below:

Mayor Michael Feyen said the draft Growth Strategy looks out to 2040 and it will guide decisions about where and how to accommodate growth while maintaining our unique character and protecting our environment.

Let those who prefer to live in a town, with all that towns have to offer, choose a town to live in. Let those seeking the quiet life choose that. We have a unique character in Waikawa Beach and a rich environment. Let us maintain and preserve that.

Sunrise.

I take a break from writing and step outside where the dawn is beginning. The last stars are fading from the sky. I hear geese, ducks, magpies and a rooster, our neighbourhood pheasant, along with the sea. The air smells … clean. I chose to live here, leaving behind the sounds of the city with its endless sirens, cars roaring, and the views into the kitchen windows of neighbours.

Housing locations

The Council's plan is to rezone areas right beside the village and also in a strip roughly between Walkers Lane and Strathnaver Drive.

Page 39 of the Draft Horowhenua Growth Strategy 2040 says:

In identifying these options, land that is subject to flooding or ponding has been avoided.

I don't know where they derived their information, but most of the Strathnaver Drive portion is still more or less wetland, liable to ponding in wet weather. Certainly spontaneous lakes developed and stayed for months during our very wet 2017. As it says above: average rainfall will increase.

The spontaneous 2017 lake behind Uxbridge Terrace.

Part of the spontaneous 2017 lake behind Uxbridge Terrace.

The strip between Walkers Lane and Strathnaver Drive is an official low-fly aircraft training zone. Helicopters and fixed wing planes are forever buzzing the area. It's a strange idea to think of adding houses within the zone. In 2017 one helicopter crashed in that area, falling onto farmland. It's a good thing there wasn't a house beneath it.

I note too that the Waikawa Beach Ratepayers Association successfully fought development perviously on the block of farmland excluded from the blue shaded area on the Council's plan, but which is currently for sale and listed as subdividable.

So, in summary:

  • More houses here will add pressure to our road.
  • More houses will add pressure to our precious environment.
  • At least some of the potential new housing zones are unsuitable because of factors such as flooding and low-flying aircraft.
  • Why concentrate population in singular locations rather than setting up new, small, settlements a few kilometres away?
  • A larger population with additional services threatens our unique character as a small, sleepy, quiet beach community.
  • Remember: the Council want to create growth in our spot and intend to have us pay for water services and increase our rates in order to attract more people to live here. I'll say that again: the Council want us to pay to bring more people here.

In my next post I'll look at issues around water: Water, water, everywhere.