A plan for a massive new housing development north of Wellington could see the town of Levin expand by a quarter.
The Horowhenua District Council calls it the most significant residential development in the district’s history.
For three years, the council has been working with landowners on a plan to turn land near Levin – currently used for grazing and lifestyle blocks -into at least 2500 new dwellings for about 5000 people.
Public submissions on a proposed district plan change to allow the development opened yesterday and runs until 1 February.
The development is the equivalent of building a settlement the size of Ōtaki, Paeroa or Alexandra beside the town currently home to 18,800 people.
The 420-hectare block called Taraika is slated to boast a shopping centre, a school, parks and reserves.
Horowhenua Mayor Bernie Wanden said with housing under pressure, the project could not start soon enough.
“We’re the third fastest growing district in the country at the moment, [the] population is exploding.
“We badly need some development, we badly need some new housing.”
The development got a big boost from the government in August, with $25 million in loans and grants.
Wanden said that had fast-tracked the project, with the aim for sections to go on the market within months and roading and infrastructure built in six years.
He said by the end of the decade, the huge motorway projects connecting the area to Wellington could make it an hour-long straight shot to the Capital.
The mayor said this would attract those who wanted the benefit of small town living but also wanted to keep their jobs in the big city.
“So we can hopefully help solve some of the housing issues that Wellington region has as well.
“We are considered to have a lifestyle that is appealing to a lot of people but also, obviously the value of properties up here is considerably lower than it is in Wellington, and even in Kāpiti, so you can get really good value for here as well.”
Levin is home to a large number of retirees.
One of its ward councillors and salon owner Victoria Kaye-Simmons said most people were excited by prospect of young blood in the area.
“More young families, there’s going to be another primary school built and possibly another shopping centre – all of this stuff.
“I think that’s going to be really exciting and I think people are going to be truly quite amazed by what’s going to be happening at that end of the Horowhenua.”
But Horowhenua Residents and Ratepayers Association chair Christine Moriarty is not sold on the idea.
She said there were already water restrictions every year and there was not enough water for the new development.
“My biggest fear is the infrastructure that we have in Levin is just not going to cope.
“And the outcome will be that the existing ratepayers will have sanctions put on them to not be able to use [water].”
She doubted there would be high demand for the houses, and said ratepayers would be stuck carrying the can.
“I don’t think there’s 2500 people that want to come here.
“I just don’t believe that the sort of houses they’re building, [that] there’s going to be enough people to buy them and it’s just going to be a white elephant.”