Rush to build reflects demand over supply

POPPING UP: Practically empty a month ago, activity at the new Shaw Road subdivision underwent a boom in recent weeks. Photo Mark Rieder D8604-01

A CONSTRUCTION surge at the Shaw Road subdivision reflects the community’s housing shortage but also demonstrates the efforts being made to end it.

Landmark Homes was the first builder at the new subdivision. Co-owner Gerry Schumacher said they had completed their show home that will be open for tours starting on June 28.

“It’ll be open from 1 to 3.30 on Saturdays and Sundays and the rest of the time it will be by appointment,” he said.

Shaw Road developer Barney Gray said even he was surprised by the sudden growth spurt.

“It’s been an incredible mini building boom there. The Landmark show home is finished, there are eight others on the go and a couple more not far from starting,” he said.

“It’s happening quicker than I expected.”

Though a positive sign of the region’s economic health, the growth is double edged in that it is quickly diminishing the availability of sections in Whakatane township.

“The biggest problem is the ongoing shortage of sections. The Piripai Rise subdivision is now on the market with the titles coming in three or four months-time, and that will bring a building surge at Bunyan Road. But apart from that, there is virtually nothing else around,” Mr Gray said.

Though much of Whakatane’s housing limitations is a result of geography, Mr Gray said it was worsened by a lack of planning.

“If you plan for it, it can happen. But there’s just no planning at Whakatane council, there hasn’t been for a long time. That’s why we have this stop-start development cycle,” he said.

He believes the council needs to take better leadership in dealing with growth issues.

“The new chief executive seems to be switched-on to considering proposed developments. She was involved with Tauranga’s programme where they planned out for 10 or 15 years where residential or commercial development should go,” he said.

With tradespeople making up a significant sector of the local economy, it was long identified as a major contributor to employment.

“The former chief executive, Marty Grenfell, once said that figures showed there were about 3000 people in Whakatane who rely on house construction for a living,” Mr Gray said.

He said the in-fill activity near Kopeopeo was also a positive sign, particularly because the new construction indicated a trend towards smaller homes and gardens. He also said the ease of ownership for smaller homes was a step in the right direction.

“It’s good to see Housing New Zealand make better use of their larger sized sections. A lot of Housing NZ sections are too big. I think people will be happy with a new, energy-efficient house on a smaller section.”

He said with housing pressures a chronic problem across the country and Whakatane’s high desirability rating, the issue will only worsen.

“It’s getting too expensive to buy sections in Tauranga so more and more interest is coming our way. The desire is to come to a lovely town like Whakatane because they want a nice climate where they can retire. We’ll always have the demand here, we just don’t have the supply,” he said.