A city on New Zealand’s north island is seeing massive growth, and it must gear up to cope with its newcomers.
Tauranga, the sixth largest city in New Zealand, has seen its population swell by “about 15,000 to 20,000” people in the last five years, Mayor Greg Brownless tells GovInsider. Considering that the town has a population of 128,000, this number is significant (15%).
“A lot of people are leaving Auckland, coming to live here,” Brownless says. More and more innovative businesses are relocating to this coastal city too, he adds: “We have 3D manufacturing plants that manufacture titanium here, products all around the world.”
Brownless’ council is focusing on a few key areas as it welcomes more citizens. In particular, “we’re going to plow a lot of money into infrastructure.”
The first key investment area is transport.
Traffic is becoming “more and more of an issue” in the city, and solving traffic congestion is a priority to Brownless. Currently, “there isn’t a culture of using public transport” in Tauranga, he notes. “Here, the car is still king,” he says. As a solution, he hopes to improve on the public bus system, and introduce e-bikes.
“I imagine our transport network, that will become increasingly more technologically-driven over the next few years,” says Brownless. Driverless cars and buses will be introduced “in the distant future”, he says.
Elsewhere in the region, cities like Adelaide are working on smart parking solutions that will ease bottlenecks on roads.
The second key area is housing, Brownless explains. “We need to open up more land,” he says. “Housing supply has been a little bit limited.”
To speed this up, the council is now enabling builders to apply for building consent for projects online, a service that has been made available over the last few months, according to Brownless. In addition, the council is working on zoning more land for housing.
Urban planning is where Smartgrowth, a collaboration between Tauranga and its neighbouring councils, comes in. The project is a strategy for “smart land use” in the western Bay of Plenty area, with particular focus on the next twenty years, according to its website.
Fast growth also requires more water, Brownless explains. The city moved to using microfiltration techniques to process its water “about 12 years ago”, and today it enjoys clean water that can be drunk from the tap.
“We’re also working on a new project, a new stream we’re opening up to supply water to the city. That will come online in about 2021 and we’ll use the same high-tech treatment plant,” he adds.
Brownless believes that “water is just so important”, and other countries in the Asia Pacific region also have a big focus on water. Land-scarce Singapore, with no space to dig up more reservoirs than it already has, reuses as much water as possible by recycling sewage and turning it into drinking water.
Tauranga also plans to install a new sewage pipeline in the coming years, and while it’s an “expensive exercise”, Brownless notes that “the new growth will pay for it”.
As more people from the big city decide to settle down in Tauranga, it will be interesting to watch its growth and evolution over the coming years. A small city facing big growth, it echoes the rapid urbanisation of our age.
Image of Tauranga City by Dan Van Nistelrooy – CC BY 2.0