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A change to the city’s planning rules will improve the health of the Waikato River as well as provide more housing in Hamilton.

Hamilton City Council has released its proposed approach for how it will enable more housing in the city through its District Plan. The move follows legislation from central Government which directs cities like Auckland, Christchurch, Tauranga and Wellington to grow up, not just out.

District Plan Committee Chair Ryan Hamilton said Hamilton’s proposed Plan Change 12 is a bespoke approach that meets Government requirements as well as the city’s legal obligation to protect and enhance the Waikato River.

“We know we need to provide homes and Government gave us a clear direction that we need to do that by building up, as well as out. One of the biggest drivers for us is making sure we look after our river while we do it. We’re guided by Te Ture Whaimana o Te Awa o Waikato – the vision and strategy for the river – to do this.

“Our research shows that without controls in place, intensification will have a negative impact on the river. However, after extensive research we’ve found an approach that both protects our natural environment and provides for higher densities in appropriate parts of the city.”

The proposed approach will allow three homes of up to three storeys per section as per Government’s direction and keep higher storey buildings contained to the central city and walkable areas around it, including Whitiora, Frankton and parts of Hamilton East.

It will also add new requirements for developments to provide on-site rainwater tanks, quality landscaping, and drainage to help water conservation and manage stormwater, both which impact the river.

Hamilton said while many of the finer details including specific rules and affected properties are still being worked through, it gives Hamiltonians some clarity around what they can expect to see when Plan Change 12 is notified for public feedback in August.

“We always knew we needed to make Government’s direction work for Hamilton. We’ve spent a lot of time making sure we have the evidence to support an approach that both delivers on our obligations to Government and our river, but also stacks up legally.

“I believe this approach is one which Hamiltonians will feel like ‘you know what, this Council has our back’. This is a great response to a Bill which wasn’t perfect for our city,” he said.

The 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 being considered to help off-set the effects of intensification. This would be used to fund things like pipe renewals, gully and river restoration and making our streets more attractive.

“This is not about punishing developers. It’s recognising that those set to financially benefit from being able to build more houses on a section, should contribute more to the cost of the impacts of that, instead of it falling on ratepayers,” said Hamilton.

Hamiltonians can expect more detail and the chance to give feedback on Plan Change 12 from 19 August. As Council is looking to modify the approach set out by Government, the new rules are not expected to come into effect until the full plan change process is followed – likely late-2023 or early-2024.

The changes are one of two significant plan changes Council is currently working through.

Yesterday (16 June), the District Plan Committee made a recommendation to full Council to notify Plan Change 9 which protects the city’s cultural, environmental and built heritage from development. If it’s approved, that plan change will be publicly notified for the community to have their say in July.

Read more about Plan Change 12 here.

Read more about Plan Change 9 here.

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