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5 April 2018


The purpose of the public meeting was to inform the community about the Special Housing Areas (SHAs) proposed for Ngongotaha and collect and provide feedback to the Mayor and Councillors from the community.

The organizing group comprised Trish Hosking, Reynold Macpherson, Donna Morgan, Cr Raj Kumar and Cr Peter Bentley. They organized the meeting because the Council had decided to advance SHAs using the Special Housing Act which suspends the need to notify, inform or consult the community.

The size of the meeting varied as some people came and went, with head counts ranging between 103 and 111. The audience filled the hall.

Powerpoint Presentations

The meeting started with prepared presentations using Powerpoint. The file is in the public domain at 

This link has been emailed to all invited and participants who provided an email address.

The Powerpoint file was also posted to the RDRR Facebook page at  to enable public commentary and debate.

This Report

This report provides a summary and an analysis of the unscripted ideas presented verbally by participants at the public meeting. It will be similarly distributed and archived for public access as the Powerpoint file. 


Notes were taken by Carol Smyth[1] during and immediately after the public meeting. Her notes were transcribed the next day by Patricia Hosking[2] and Reynold Macpherson.[3] The validity of the record was enhanced in several cases by contacting contributors.

Construct analysis was then used to identify, classify and present a summary of the references and percentages of all references made by participants to clarify the diversity and emphases in community feedback.

Carol and the members of the organizing group then validated this report. Given the limits of the methodology used, the report largely allows the qualitative data collected to ‘speak for itself’ with only a provisional interpretation being provided.

Guy Ngatai, Ngati Ngararanui, Mana Whenua

Guy reiterated his whakapapa, how his tupuna had connected with the whenua over centuries, and how tribal boundaries were defined in 1888 by the Maori Land Court. He is a hapu trustee of Ngati Ngararanui, which is acknowledged as mana whenua of both SHA 1 and 2.

He posed his concerns as questions:

  • Why would Council allow SHA 1 to be built on ex-swamp land, now a flood plain, by bulldozing the high ground which is an urupa (cemetery)?
  • Will SHA 1 end up like Western Road?
  • How many bedrooms will the high-density homes have? Why build ‘little boxes’ for people with special housing needs?
  • Who is the SHA 1 developer? Has he nothing to offer this community? Is housing costing between $300-$550K affordable? Are our mokopuna to enjoy and inherit decent housing or is this a capitalist scheme to make money from rural lifestyle?
  • Is Council aware that SHA 2 also has wahitapu areas that were once swamp land, hunting grounds and battle sites, bordered by a stream of great cultural significance?
  • SHA 2’s single access road will be congested. Is there not already a serious congestion problem around Western Road, and adding to the problems caused by poor road maintenance?
  • Why do only adjacent landowners have the capacity to object, yet not mana whenua? (A resident interjected saying “Do we live in Russia?) Like the adjacent landowners, mana whenua believe strongly in their kaitiakitanga (guardianship) responsibilities. Were not the threats of legal action by a developer’s representative grossly improper?

Ngararanui is discussing how to develop their own land, he said, and Council’s approach marginalizes how they can develop their own land. Further, they don’t want to have the burden of cleaning up the environment after a poorly planned housing development fails.

Guy concluded that mana whenua regard it as culturally insensitive and offensive not to be informed and consulted about the proposed developments. They take the view that Council has become autocratic and haphazard. Hence, Ngararanui suggest that the Council’s motto of ‘Tatau tatau’ (us together) should be changed to ‘Matau matau’ (us, excluding them).

Cr Peter Bentley declined to speak.

Cr Raj Kumar spoke briefly. He explained that he had to remain neutral but chose to hear what people have to say, and therefore, had made himself available. He said, “The numbers attending speak volumes. I want to hear for myself, through openness.” He added “I am for growth, for development, but do we really need the SHAs, in these places? Now is the time to speak up, make yourself heard and to ask questions.”

Cr Raukawa-Tait came on from another meeting during the open questions, also to listen and not speak.  

Open Questions and Answers

The first question asked was “Who are SJR Holdings who proposed SHA 2?” A search of the Companies Register had showed that it was established in January 2018 with one director and one shareholder; Selina Rika.

Selina was present and explained that she was not against public consultation for SHA2. Locally born in Rotorua, a Rotorua resident most of her life, she noted that she has operated local businesses, knows the community well, and wanted to hear what the community had to say. She claimed that her main reasons for proposing SHA 2 were to provide affordable housing and to make the development worthwhile for the community.

A recent resident, who had moved here for the lifestyle and a quieter pace of life, responded. She was concerned about the impact of both developments on lakes’ water quality, sewerage, roading, schools, public health, etc. And how would the costs of infrastructure impact on rates?

A longer-term resident thanked the three Councillors for listening and for defying the directions of the Chief Executive as reported in the Rotorua Daily Post. He was also concerned about the impact on fresh water quality, sewerage, and roading in the two housing developments. He claimed that Council is considering additional developments yet to be notified.

Another resident was very concerned about the Minister signing off on SHA 1 without plans that will mitigate the risks of building on a flood plain, with inevitable insurance difficulties, in particular without a convincing geo-tech report publicly available prior to the 30-day resource consenting process. His views were endorsed by another resident. Reynold confirmed that if and when the Minister approved the SHA 1 it would lead to Council launching the brief resource consenting process that would only be open to the two adjacent landowners.

A resident commented that “SHA 1 sounds like Western Road” to applause. Trish noted that raising the site above flood level, by bulldozing soil, would cause floods to back up far more than in the past, intensify the erosion of the stream’s banks as it cleared around the SHA 1 development, potentially undermine some of the new houses and the bridge, and take much more silt into Lake Rotorua.

Another farmer noted that many farms in the hinterland had installed retention dams to manage nutrient runoff which would help mitigate flooding. He cited 39 retention sites in Otorua Road alone that were intended to limit run off and improve water quality.

Guy Ngatai confirmed that much of SHA 1 was originally swamp land and a flood plain. He reported discussions about water quality in the Waiteti Steam with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, especially the challenges of managing nitrates, phosphorus and other detrimental sources. River banks have been tidied up but the refuse has not been removed. The increased congestion will mean more diesel and oil washing off into the stream. Since mana whenua will need to deal with it, he argued, the problems need to be anticipated before fast-tracking starts.

Trish confirmed that, when rain fall is moderate, the river levels don’t rise a great deal. However, with more extreme weather becoming more frequent, there is far more run-off with banks eroding, trees falling into the stream and an earlier bridge being washed out. Normal water levels are now a metre higher than they were years ago, and the replacement bridge now goes under water during floods. In her view, raising the level of the flood plain and partially blocking flood waters, will simply worsen a major problem.

Reynold wanted to be assured that SHA 2 was not to be built on Whakaeketahuna Pa built by Ihenga and Hinetekakara, later lived in by their son and subsequently becoming an urupa. Guy confirmed that Whakaeketahuna was further upstream from the proposed SHAs. However, he did confirm that Whakauae tupuna had been buried in the Waiteti Stream, and it contained a sacred adze-sharpening stone reputed to have come from Hawaiki, that together still rendered the stream tapu for many. In the meantime, it was widely known and accepted in the community that there was an urupa on the high ground of SHA 1 that should not be disturbed.

A resident asked if contingency plans had been made by the New Zealand Traffic Agency (NZTA) to improve the main road through Ngongotaha in the event of the two proposed subdivisions going ahead. He felt that Council didn’t want to know, because they are not responsible for the main highway, but understood that the NZTA had no plans for works until 2020-24. He argued that, with one or two cars likely at each of the 320 proposed dwellings, and truck traffic increasing steadily, the roads that are bad now will deteriorate even faster. He could not understand what Council was waiting for before starting proper planning.

Another resident recalled four lanes being planned for Ngongotaha but without any progress being made. Yet another resident argued that more cars on Ngongtaha’s road will mean more pollution. With no bus services planned for the two subdivisions, and 320 houses without access to the library or a dairy, the developments on rural land simply didn’t make sense.

Later in the meeting, a resident confirmed that the main road is a state highway and that the Prime Minister had just cut the budget for state highways. With extra use and less maintenance, he argued, everyone will be adversely affected.

A community coordinator emphasized the need to retain the village’s character. He strongly supported the RMA Policy Committee “throwing out SHA2” and added that it “should have thrown out SHA 1” to safeguard Ngongotaha’s special charm. Another resident reported that the original plan of the SHA 1 developer had been to offer lifestyle blocks until he had been persuaded to propose more affordable housing.

A resident asked about the status of the Special Housing Act and the Spatial Plan. Reynold replied that the Act expires in 18 months and that the Council’s Spatial Plan was currently a draft and not operative, and further, was based on what many regard as token consultations.

A Ngongotaha mother expressed her concern over children’s educational prospects with the local school approaching its maximum. She asked if there were plans to build new schools. Trish reported her discussion with the local primary school principal who had assured her that if numbers rise then additional classrooms and teachers would follow. Nevertheless, the mother questioned if such expansion would take up playing space.

In reply to questions about the expertise of officials, Reynold noted that the RMA Policy Committee has three qualified members and that thay had relied heavily on the expert official’s Reporting Officer’s Report. This report had reportedly clarified educational, archeological and other issues related to the strict criteria used to evaluate proposals. He noted two problems. The Reporting Officer’s Report was secret and not contestable. Councillors not on the RMA Policy Committee had not seen the report before making their decisions about the two proposals. Reynold indicated that he had requested a copy of the Reporting Officer’s Report under LGOIMA and would know within 20 working days if it is to be provided.

Another resident asked, “Who pays for the development costs?” Reynold recalled that both proposals reportedly guaranteed that both subdivisions would proceed “without costs to Council,” presumably meaning without cost to ratepayers.

A resident asked if the low-cost housing areas could end up as state housing or become ghettoes. Reynold confirmed that both proposed SHAs would reportedly provide state or social housing, and that concentrating those with special housing needs in new estates can compound and significantly intensify pre-existing social problems.

Another resident asked if the new houses would be “owner occupied” or be bought up by landlords. Another asked later if they could be used for Air B&B or other business purposes. Reynold confirmed that these outcomes were all possible, because once sold, there would be no control over the owners. On the other hand, he said, a restriction on builders and owners would exist in the unknown covenants that would have to be adhered to.

Selina believed that each property sold would have its own title, with riparian rights and responsibility for the banks if it fronted the stream.[4] Trish doubted that riparian rights would be part of any title and added that “when we were consulted no-one else had or could be given such information.” Selina reiterated that she was in favour of a “new concept of consulting community” over this and other concerns.

A young mana whenua man recalled that, “As a kid, it was safer to cross the main road.” He was also concerned that the Special Housing Area houses would soon become “cheap rentals” where people didn’t “really care for the area”. He asked “How long before it gets run down? How confident is anyone that we can keep it local? What can be put in place to keep it local? What can be put in place to keep the environment clean?” His unanswered questions drew applause.

Another older mana whenua man pointed to areas on the map of SHA 1 and said that “My grandfather used to own land here and I remember seeing much of area under water. The dirt here has the bones of my tipuna. Leave their bones there. Go somewhere else.”

He also doubted that there was “enough dirt with my tupuna’s bones from the urupa to cover the flood plain one metre deep.” He later recalled that “My father built garage workshop sheds with servicing pits on Ngongotaha Road. During the flood season the water table rose in the pits to waist level.”  

One long-term resident spoke in favour of the proposals. He argued that growth was inevitable, something that Ngongotaha had to cope with, and that the housing shortage was not something that it could divorce itself from. He drew attention to the Council’s invitation to a public community meeting on Tuesday 10 April at 7pm at the Bowling Club.

The same resident noted that RDRR’s Alternative Spatial Plan recognized that growth was inevitable but had also raised the possibility that Ngongotaha and Mamaku might become dormitory towns of Tauranga. Reynold replied that the purpose of the meeting was not for RDRR to explain and defend their Alterative Spatial Plan written in May 2017 but for residents to provide feedback on the current SHA proposals.

A much younger resident with a son, and relatives in Scandinavia, agreed that growth is inevitable but that high-density housing is done well in Scandanavia. He used international examples to argue that high-density housing could be done well here so that first-time home buyers and beneficiaries could live near to Rotorua and have full access to its public services. His comments were applauded.

A resident who had retired from Auckland also agreed that growth was inevitable, and that proper planning would be vital. His question was “What are we going to do if our consensus is that we don’t want it [the current SHA proposals] to go ahead?” He endorsed the previous speakers’ points about the need for proper planning. Reynold agreed and noted that the purpose of the meeting was to inform the community and collect feedback for the Mayor and Councilors in the hope that they would respond accordingly with a review of plans.

One resident asked for the name and email address of the current Ministers of Housing and Urban Development to provide their views on the proposed ministerial endorsement of SHA 1. Another noted that, since only adjacent landowners could object, and only during the brief resource consenting stage, it means that everyone else should lodge their objections directly with the Minister.

Reynold promised to provide the contacts information. The Minister is Hon Phil Twyford (email phone +64 4 817 8704). The Associate Minister is Hon Jenny Salesa (email phone +64 4 817 8714).

One resident confirmed that the authority responsible for the main road through Ngongotaha is now the New Zealand Traffic Agency (NZTA) (see Complaints should be directed there.

Another resident wanted to put on record his opinion that Western Road should never have been developed. “Here we have a similar area by a stream.  Low-cost housing will result in gangs, increased crime and so on.” His comments were applauded.

One resident asked if the Council will notify the community when the 30 days objection period will start. Reynold was not sure if the community would be notified by the Council, other than adjacent landowners who were the only parties entitled to object. It was agreed that all attendees providing an email address would be notified.

One resident on Ngongotaha Road opposite the proposed entrance to SHA 1 reported that she had contacted the developer to refuse her consent but was told that he did not need her consent. She later claimed that her neighbours were offered inducements to sign the consent form, such as having a road would be named after a family when they consented to the development.

There were a range of questions then asked, some rhetorical. One resident asked why the Council had not asked the developer of the Pukehangi Road subdivision in Rotorua to increase the level of intensification before approval. A younger resident asked two questions. “How will first-home buyers like us be able to afford the $300,000 starting price? [and] … “which family will want such small sections?”  

A retired resident advised that decision making about affordable housing needed to replace emotion with statistical analysis and facts to solve the problems. Another elderly resident concluded that “all rural ratepayers should be concerned with the proposed loss of rural land. Take rural land. It’s cheap. And then Council can dump higher rates on many more people.”

Yet another resident pointed out that high-density dwellings, unless well designed, become slums in 10-20 years. It was crucial, he said, that they need to be well thought out and planned. There are great examples around the world. He explained that rental property managers would need tight guidelines and that the infrastructure would soon fail if there is poor planning. He argued that while executive complexes had little need of infrastructure, affordable housing implies much more intensive needs, reflecting the nature of people put into low-cost units. He suggested the need for more mixed development.

Another resident agreed, especially the need for safe infrastructure for kids, for example, providing for wellbeing through bus stops, zebra crossings, and so on. She was concerned at very little public transport bearing in mind the nature of the demographic groups to be housed.

One resident was very concerned that elected representatives are there to serve the people who elected them, not the developer. They should not become agents for the developers, he said. There was no need, in his view, to rush the SHA proposals through. His main concern was the main road because it is “jam packed, I can’t get out of my drive, and yet my rates increase.”

A resident highly experienced in public policy making shared a written submission after the meeting. In it he pointed out that the recent Long Term Planning consultations revealed strong antipathy from the community and from mana whenua who recalled earlier examples of how traditional freshwater and land resources had been compromised.

The submission went in to argue that the Council’s uncritical adoption of National Government Policy and SHA Act, more draconian that the Public Works Act, was mean minded and rude. The SHAs were, he said, an ego-driven project and ill considerate of iwi and social concerns. The evaluation concluded that the mass housing peoject with associated roadworks and land modification would be very detrimental to the sensitive stream environment and to the Ngongotaha community.

Hence, the absence of a notification of plans and elected representatives and officials refusing to explain and consult had led to the community developing such mechanisms for themselves. The Mayor, the CEO and the chair of a community board had, he argued, chosen to politicize the leadership of the public meeting rather than discharging their responsibility to inform and join in public consultations.

Table 1 overleaf provides a construct analysis of these unscripted contributions and a provisional interpretation.

Table 1: Frequency and Percentages of References to Issues about SHAs (n=103-111)

  References to Issues  Numbers of References  Percentage of All References  
Inappropriate Council Processes Ignored community values and interests (9), no notification (7), no information provision (7), consultation (7), inadequate planning (6), limited capacity to object (5), ill-informed Councillors making decisions (5), brief and limited resource consenting (4), the still-secret Reporting Officer’s Report (4), development costs (3), impact on rates (3), flawed Special Housing Act (3), draft Spatial Plan (2), appeal SHA 1 to Ministers (2), threats of legal action (1), autocratic (1), haphazard (1).        70        32.4
Environmentally Unsuitable Land Floods (13), flood plain (5), water quality (5), like Western Road subdivision (4), swamp land (3), environment (3), erosion (2), no geo-tech report (1), pollution (1).  37  17.1
Culturally Offensive and Insensitive Waiteti Stream (10), mana whenua (8), urupa (4), Ngararanui (4), tupuna (3), wahitapu (3), mokopuna (1), hunting grounds (1), battle sites (1), kaitiakitanga (1).  36  16.7
Inappropriate Social Consequences Insensitive to rural values (7), disturb schooling (7), doubtful affordability (6), disrupting lifestyles (4), intensification of social problems, gangs, increased crime etc. in ghettoes/ run down state/ social housing (5), disturb the village (2), public health (1).    32    14.8
Inadequate Infrastructure No NZTA contingency plans for upgrading state highway through Ngongotaha (8), traffic congestion (5), poor road maintenance (3), no bus services planned (3), no sewerage plans (2).    21    9.7
Unsuitable Development Model Developers’ motives doubted (7), safety and wellbeing (3), unknown riparian rights (2), high-density homes for demographic groups should be near city services (2), capitalist scheme (1), little boxes (1), cheap rentals (1), unknown insurance costs (1), unknown covenants (1), slums (1).    20    9.2
  Totals  216  99.9  

Provisional Interpretation

The essence of the feedback from the public meeting to the Mayor and Councillors is that attendees almost unanimously rejected the SHA proposals due mostly to inappropriate Council decision-making processes, but also due to the proposed use of unsuitable land, being culturally offensive and insensitive, and as having inappropriate social consequences, and, lesser so, due to inadequate infrastructure and the use of an unsuitable development model.

[1] Carol holds graduate and postgraduate qualifications, served as a police officer in the UK and was Court Registrar for jury trials at the Rotorua District Court.

[2] Patricia (Trish) holds an MSc with Distinction from King’s College, a leading public research university in London.

[3] Reynold has a PhD and is an ex-professor of professional and organisational development with extensive international experience and publications in social science research methodologies.

[4] On 9 April Selina provided a correction: “Currently land along the river is held in riparian rights title and when it is subdivided the Queen’s chain is taken for public reserve giving everyone access and responsibility of care not just one land owner as it currently is.”