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Coping with growth in the Coromandel

Kim Stewart Nov 11
Coping with growth in the Coromandel
The Coromandel town of Whitianga is continuing to flourish.

For as long as any of us can remember crowds have flocked to the Coromandel region on their annual escape from urban centres such as Auckland, Hamilton and further afield.

This annual migration of well over 100,000 visitors adds a special character to the region and presents the Thames-Coromandel District Council and local community boards peppered through the area with opportunities and challenges.

Thames-Coromandel District Mayor Sandra Goudie knows the Coromandel well, having previously served on Council and as Coromandel’s Member of Parliament for three terms ending in 2011 when she announced her retirement from central government.

“There is so much that is special about the Coromandel. I travel a lot in my current role as Mayor, visiting communities large and small. Council also engages with community boards to gauge their specific needs. This helps us to prioritise where council funded spending is best directed,” Mayor Goudie says.

The very nature of the Peninsula’s topography leads to other, more pressing challenges. One in particular has the potential to cause signifi cant future disruption to pockets of housing near exposed coastal stretches.

The impact of global warming and rising sealevels is very much at the forefront of the council’s long term planning in terms of infrastructure provision.

Earlier this year the council adopted the government’s revised climate change assumptions published December 2017.

As a result all major infrastructure projects have to take into account a potential seal-level rise of up to 1.88m by 2150.

When Sandra Goudie visited the isolated settlement of Port Charles she saw first-hand the impact especially severe weather patterns have had along the coast.

“There has been up to 5 metres of peoples’ frontage washed away. It’s very disheartening for the dozen or so home-owners who have worked hard with protective planting to off-set this very possibility.”

Meanwhile up the Thames Coast, the scenic coastal road which carries travellers from Thames toward Coromandel township has only in part been restored.

The road between Thames and Waiomu has been reinstated and future-proofed, however north of Waiomu is yet to receive attention. Mercury Bay remains the most vibrant area in terms of growth in housing and general development.

A massive upgrade of Whitianga’s main street, welcomed by business owners, has been a really positive project.

Data provided by TCDC highlighted just how Whitianga is booming. Of 289 consents processed for new dwellings between 1 July 2017 and 30 June 2018, 150 of these were located in the Mercury Bay area. Pauanui/Tairua and Whangamata each had over 40 consents approved.

“With reference to Whitianga in particular the Hopper Water Way development ‘Whitianga Waterways’ has essentially future-proofed the town’s water and waste-water needs and has been a very positive experience for the town.”

When asked to comment on housing stock availability Goudie said successful planning has created the comfortable position that all settlements, other than Thames, are meeting demand from permanent and holiday-makers wishing to live in the region.

“People want property in Thames. In the past council has had a myopic approach to its strategic thinking, resulting in the problems we have today.

“Thames housing is in demand given the town’s unique location, close to major centres in the Waikato and Auckland.”

As part of its 2018-2028 Long Term Plan Council has approved funding to extend water, wastewater,
stormwater and road sealing up Totara Valley Road, beginning in 2019. Council planners will first discuss with landowners in the valley about potential subdivisions.

Sandra Goudie says due to the infl ux of so many visitors and absentee home-owners all descending on settlements around the peninsula over the same period of time, provision of improved public facilities such as toilets and car-parking and access to drinking water are a Council priority.

“When you can supply quality parking for the public they are happy to pay for it and this creates ongoing funding to maintain the facilities. “We’re currently developing parking in Hahei and are holding public consultation on parking.” Major subdivisions have continued to evolve.

In the past two years Whitianga Waterways stages 8, 9 and 10 have resulted in an additional 153 lots established, while north of Whitianga township at Wharekaho 111 lots have opened up for development.

There’s strong growth in Coromandel as well and lesser yet still significant subdivision activity in Whitianga and Whangamata.

Balancing the wishes and needs of a slowly aging population with provision of services and infrastructure for the huge tourist sector is something
Mayor Goudie and her Council are keenly aware of.

The latest estimated population of the district is 29,042 (2018), estimated to grow at a steady rate to just above 29,500 by 2028. After that the region will experience a slow, gradual decline in population as the bulk of the demographic grow older.

On a positive note, the council received $130,000 from the government’s Tourism Infrastructure Fund (TIF) to help pay for public toilets at Hahei and expanding the village’s entrance car park.

Visitor facilities at Hannafords Wharf (where the ferry from Auckland docks) near Coromandel Town have also been upgraded with the help of a $103,000 TIF grant, because of the wider benefits for the whole district.

This upgrade includes improved access to the wharf a shelter for charter boat and ferry passengers, and a turnaround area for buses. For Goudie the appeal of the Coromandel region which has long been her home comes down to the diversity of people and places.

“They love the environment and the environment they live in. My role is to facilitate discussion, to support communities, giving voice to what matters to them.”

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