The Sustainable Bay of Plenty Trust is calling on Tauranga City Council to re-think its 2021 Long Term Plan, which closes for submissions this Monday, June 7.
Whilst stating that there are some “good aspects” of Council’s LTP they claim the ‘SmartGrowth’ strategy behind it is unsustainable.
"That SmartGrowth plan calls for the city to sprawl further along the coast and up the Kaimai hills, but without a rapid transit system,” says Sustainable Bay of Plenty executive director Glen Crowther.
“This will result in worse congestion, massive rates rises and even bigger increases in debt to fund growth infrastructure. It will also lead to further increases in carbon emissions.
“It is bad for the environment and bad news for people's back pockets - especially those on low or fixed incomes.
"Most importantly, there's been no discussion about the growth strategy that drives this big step-change in capital investment, with $4.6 billion to be spent over the coming decade.
“This is 2.5 times per capita what Wellington plans to spend. Yet unlike Wellington and other cities, there has been no public engagement at all about the underlying urban development plan and Transport System Plan that have led to such a big spend-up."
Glen believes it is “strange” that Tauranga has no sustainability strategy and no plan to reduce carbon emissions, suggesting smaller Bay of Plenty regions such as Rotorua and Whakatane do .
“We are told that there is no option apart from this hugely expensive plan to grow the city, even though when residents were last asked what we thought in 2018, people made it very clear they did not support this plan. It directs 80 per cent of the growth to the city outskirts without fast, attractive public transport options.”
Glen believes Council will not get a clear indication of what local residents really think about the big spend on growth from this LTP consultation, as people are being told that the extra spending is mostly needed for community facilities.
"It is only when you dig into the numbers that you see that 62 per cent of the new capital expenditure will actually go towards growth,” he claims.
"Tauranga residential ratepayers already pay more rates than any comparable NZ city, and this plan would push up median residential rates, including water and Regional Council rates, by about $560 this year alone.
Glen states that rates will double in five years whilst debt will double in three-and-a-half years.
“By 2026, superannuitants who own or rent for a moderate Tauranga house could realistically be paying more than 25 per cent of their income on rates if this plan goes ahead,” he suggests.
Sustainable Bay of Plenty believes an open conversation with communities around how to handle growth must be held, instead of those discussions being held behind closed doors.
“We welcome Sustainable Bay of Plenty Charitable Trust’s submission and look forward to considering it fully in due course,” says a spokesperson for Tauranga City Council.