Hamilton City Council manages growth in the city. Part of this means guiding where we grow so it's in the right places with good transport connections, close to all the things we need and considers the impact on the environment. Our Hamilton Urban Growth Strategy guides how and where we do this.
Our water, wastewater and stormwater networks are fundamental services required for growth. We’re experiencing some challenges with how much development our three waters networks can cope with in some areas. We have plans in place to deal with these challenges, but there are steps we need to put in place right now to protect our environment while our investment programme catches up.
What's the situation now?
Our water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure were built to cater for a certain type of development in Hamilton at standards appropriate at that time.
Since then, there is new legislation and higher environmental standards that our infrastructure networks must meet. This includes stronger obligations to restore and protect the wellbeing of the Waikato River set out in Te Ture Whaimana o Te Awa o Waikato: the primary direction setting document for any activity that affects the Waikato River.
As we have grown into a much larger city more people are living and working more closely together but being serviced by infrastructure built to previous standards which at that time weren’t designed for our current growing population.
While Council does have an investment programme to upgrade our infrastructure to meet the new requirements and allow for growth, our modelling and monitoring shows parts of our city have capacity constraints right now. In some of these older areas we’re already seeing the impact particularly following wet weather events.
What areas are we talking about?
Our older areas of the city are impacted the most. We have identified specific areas that are high-risk based on:
- network performance following wet weather events
- infrastructure modelling
- consenting activity.
High-risk areas currently have limited or no capacity in the network for development without the completion of upgrades to provide the extra capacity.
Our highest risk areas right now are:
- The south-west (such as Bader, Melville, Deanwell, Glenview, Fitzroy)
Due to their increasing risk profile, we’re also looking closely at these areas:
- Parts of Hamilton East, Claudelands and Fairfield
- Parts of Hillcrest and around the University
- Other isolated pockets of the city including small areas of St Andrews, Rototuna and Nawton.
What does this mean for developments now?
Council encourages developers to contact us early about development in high-risk areas so developers can make informed commercial decisions regarding the prospect of a service connection.
1. For existing consents
We will continue to connect developments in high-risk areas where the development has a granted resource or building consent. Historically, developers could have reasonably expected Council to connect developments which have a granted resource or building consent.
This is to provide some certainty to the developer community for projects that are already consented.
2. For projects that have an application in progress
For projects where a resource consent application has been lodged and accepted for processing, Council will undertake an assessment on a case-by-case basis to determine whether consent can be granted, and if so under what conditions.
Infrastructure capacity, and any discussions between the developer and Council regarding capacity and connections will be a relevant consideration.
3. For new developments
For new development proposals where a resource consent or building consent has not yet been applied for, in high-risk areas, we will consider the infrastructure needs and likely advise that service connections will not proceed until our investments can ease any capacity issues.
A resource or building consent application will be processed in the normal way, but resource consent approval provides no guarantee that a service connection will be approved.
So, what is Council doing?
Revising our Connections Policy – Managing growth in the interim
We’re currently reviewing our connections policy to make sure it’s as responsive as we need it to be to help us manage our networks. We’ll be talking to iwi, mana whenua and the development community more about this as the revised policy is drafted and there will be a full public consultation process in mid-2023.
Connections approvals are a legal mechanism under the Local Government Act (2002) and set out what requirements must be met for a new development to connect to our three waters networks.
Traditionally a granted resource consent would enable connection to the network, subject to certain standards and conditions being met, and development to proceed. Under our current policy there is an option for Council to decline a connection based on the impact on the network. This is not a tool that we have used before.
We don’t know the outcome of the connections policy review yet, but it is likely there will be a stricter criteria for new three waters connections in high-risk areas of the city until long-term infrastructure solutions are implemented.
Plan Change 12 – Changing the rules
As part of Council’s response to Government’s direction to provide more housing, and higher density housing, we’ve recognised we need to put additional mitigations in place to manage the effect on the city’s already constrained networks. These measures will help manage the impacts of higher density housing on our infrastructure and respond to our obligations to Te Ture Whaimana o Te Awa o Waikato. Plan Change 12 introduces provisions protecting our trees and gully networks, clear rules around permeable surfaces, on-lot stormwater management, rainwater re-use tanks and other measures to reduce the impact of development on the network.
The plan change also identifies the areas in the city where Council is prioritising higher density development. Rather than allow intensification anywhere, Council is focusing intensification in the central city and its immediately surrounding areas by setting the rules so it's easier to develop here than in the rest of Hamilton. Alongside these provisions, Council will be prioritising its infrastructure spend in these areas, so that additional capacity is made available to match the level of residential intensification. These measures will sit side-by-side with the revised connections policy.
Learn more about Plan Change 12
Infrastructure investment programme – The long-term solution
We continue to invest in our three waters networks. We can’t upgrade everything all at once, so we’re prioritising our investment to address existing system capacity constraints and meet future growth demands in our priority areas. This will mean that investment in other areas of the city will not be prioritised or publicly funded. Infrastructure capacity constraints may limit growth in those areas.
Investment is a long-term solution. As we invest, pressure will be eased in high-risk areas – but often there are a suite of investment that is needed to address capacity and performance challenges which takes time to implement. For example, over the last five years we have invested in new and upgraded wastewater interceptors, trunk mains, pumpstations and flow diversion which have improved our system performance and eased network pressure across the city including in the west, east and the central city.
Council has recently revised its Hamilton Urban Growth Strategy, which outlines priority areas in the central city and surrounds, along transport corridors and in greenfield areas. This will help us prioritise our infrastructure investment programme. We have an Infrastructure Strategy which sets out a 30-year investment programme to inform decision making. Currently, how, and when that investment is prioritised is decided by Elected Members, in consultation with the community, through the Long-Term Plan process.
Future investment programmes will prioritise the strategic infrastructure needed to service the central city. Developers will be expected to contribute toward or fund trunk and local infrastructure needs.
Since the enactment of the Water Services Entities Act, new waters investment after 1 July 2024 will be the responsibility of a different organisation under Government's Three Waters Reform. Council has recently received a $150 million Infrastructure Acceleration Fund grant to build transport and waters infrastructure to support more homes in the central city.
Last updated 29 March 2023