Every year, dozens of colourful hot air balloons fill the air above Hamilton, New Zealand, lighting up the evening sky.

The city is known for its Balloons over Waikato festival, and for its proximity to nature and tourist attractions. But there is trouble in paradise – it’s running out of land to house its population, Andrew King, Mayor of Hamilton, tells GovInsider.

“We need to build over a thousand houses each year,” King says. “It’s a growing city, and we have growing pains – but it’s a very good problem to have.”

The population of Hamilton, currently standing at 164,000, is fast increasing at a rate of 40 people per week. “That’s one busload of people every week coming into our city,” he says. “This is a big challenge for us to house these people.”

He shares with GovInsider how Hamilton hopes to expand its city borders to accommodate for its new residents, and how the council will make it easier to build houses and conduct businesses.

More land, please

andrew king To accommodate for this growth, King’s priorities are to make full use of the existing land, and get more land released to the market, according to him. “We’re building up so we can put more houses on each piece of land, and we’re also introducing new land around the border,” says King.

Releasing more land for construction will also bring land prices “back to a more realistic level”, he adds, as they have “doubled” in the last four years.

One growth area that Hamilton has set its sights on is Peacocke, which lies to the south of the city. On 15 July, Hamilton News reported that the New Zealand government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) had granted $182 million to Hamilton, along with a further $90 million subsidy from the New Zealand Transport Agency, to develop Peacocke. HIF was created to provide cities with part of a $1 billion ten-year interest-free loan to develop strategic infrastructure needed for new housing, according to the report.

The Peacocke development will provide land for more than 3,700 new houses over the next ten years, and 8,100 in 30 years’ time, the report said. “It means we can fast-track significant and expensive infrastructure development to within the next five years,” King was quoted as saying.

According to the Hamilton City Council website, it will take around five years for roads, pipes and a bridge connecting Peacocke to the city to be ready, and that the first round of section could be on the market by as early as the end of 2018.

Red tape review

To speed up the process of building these many houses, King wants to ease building restrictions in Hamilton. “I’m looking at a ‘red tape’ review to try and make it easier to do business in the city,” explains King.

A six-figure budget for this review has just been approved, according to King, and the next step is to set up a task force to “look at these rules and why they’re there”. “A council isn’t here to be in business and sales, but a council is here to enable other people to do businesses and to build a city,” he says.

For now, the most pressing issue for Hamilton is making space for its growing population on a tight budget, and as such, “we work on function over beauty”, King says. However, the city boasts the youngest population of any area in New Zealand, he adds, and “the more people that come here, the more factories come here, the more jobs get generated – and the more everyone prospers”. “It’s about actually housing people and building up a city with good roads and interconnection.”

It helps that the city is already centrally-located, where “people can easily get in a car and in an hour and a half be somewhere where there’s a lot happening”, King remarks.

Soon enough, when a Hamiltonian hops onto a hot air balloon for a spectacular view of the city, they might notice how it has grown over the years – and flourished.

Images from Balloons over Waikato and Andrew King