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A new plan to provide more housing in Hamilton has been met with criticism, dismay, and rejection by some, but others applaud the initiatives in place to protect the Waikato River and allow more development opportunities across the city.

Hamilton City Council are now calling for further submissions on Plan Change 12 to provide more housing, and higher density housing, across the city. As part of this process, people can either support or oppose any of the 350 submissions received for the plan change but cannot raise any new issues.

The plan change came in response to a direction from central government, supported by both major political parties, for big cities like Hamilton to increase the number and type of multi-storey homes and apartments across the city. The government direction didn't give councils much ability to control things like how they will look, how much backyard they have, the impact on the city’s roads and pipes, and how they affect neighbouring properties.

City Planning Manager Dr Mark Davey said feedback was divided.

“Council is caught in a tough spot. The direction to intensify Hamilton and other urban centres across New Zealand is set by the Government, and our team has provided a response to that which works for our city. Some people supported the approach we’ve taken, others thought we should have done nothing. We think we’ve struck the right balance given the various aspects we’ve had to weigh up.

“It is now over to submitters to participate in the process, voice their views through further submissions and to the hearing panel in 2023. The panel will consider everyone’s views, including our overall proposal, and recommend back to Council a final package of changes to be implemented.

“Intensification will change the look and feel of the city over time, but through the plan change we’re also proposing to introduce some policies which will be game changers for the city for decades to come. These include new policies to help maintain and enhance trees and tree canopy, introducing water sensitive design measures, stronger design criteria for larger scale developments, and a range of controls to continue to encourage further growth and development into the central city to support its revitalisation as the heart of the region.”

Hamilton’s response introduces additional controls over and above what government has directed to support the Waikato River and surrounding environment and to make sure roads, pipes, and green spaces can handle the additional homes.

The city’s proposal also aims to address the transport needs for higher density developments, including onsite bike and scooter parking and storage, and wider roads to accommodate landscaping, stormwater treatment and public transport.

A financial contribution to be paid by developers is also proposed to help off-set the effects of intensification. This would be used to fund things like making our streets, parks and open spaces more attractive given the loss of private open space to development over time, improving access to the river, gullies and streams, and local pipe renewals.

Davey said he was impressed with some of the suggestions raised in submissions around how the community could be involved in shaping the future of Hamilton.

“Some of the submissions raised some good points around where we should intensify, by how much, the importance of good design outcomes, and the need to complement intensification with great open spaces and amenity. While these are not all things we can deal with in the scope of the District Plan, we’re looking at how we can make these happen in other ways.”

Further submissions to Plan Change 12 are open until 12 December 2022. People can read the summary of submissions, full submissions and have their say at hamilton.govt.nz/planchange12.

Hearings will take place early in 2023, before a panel of commissioners consider all the submissions and make recommendations to Council on the final plan change.

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