Hamilton development looking south to Peacocke

Ian and Leigh Manson live on top of a hill overlooking where the development will be taking place. They're unsure if ...
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Ian and Leigh Manson live on top of a hill overlooking where the development will be taking place. They're unsure if they'll stay once they're surrounded by houses.

They bought there because it was quiet.

Because of the views across rolling countryside, because it was close to central Hamilton, and because they weren't fenced into a poky section.

For Peacocke, those idyllic days look numbered. 

Development has already begun in Dixon Road.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Development has already begun in Dixon Road.

Hamilton City Council has long looked south, beyond Bader and Glenview, to the 720 hectare area that could take some 8000 houses.

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And fast tracking is possible: Council is now applying for a slice of the Government's $1 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund to get things moving.

Ian Manson in Peacockes Lane, where he's lived for 24 years.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Ian Manson in Peacockes Lane, where he's lived for 24 years.

It's far from the first time Peacocke dwellers have heard of plans for their patch.

When Ian Manson and his wife bought on Peacockes Lane 24 years ago, council said development was 15 years away.

"I hope they don't do high-density housing, because it will spoil it," he said.

Many residents bought into what they thought was a quiet area.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Many residents bought into what they thought was a quiet area.

But since high-density is the name of the game, he may have to head to the beach.

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"Everybody who comes [to Peacocke] says, It's really quiet - nice view," he said.

"It's only 10 minutes to the middle of the city, even in rush hour."

Residents have been expecting development to begin for many years.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Residents have been expecting development to begin for many years.

Down Weston Lea Drive, Grant Mackintosh disagrees. He backs the development of small sections so good farming land isn't wasted.

"When somebody has an acre or two acres, all they do is buy a big lawnmower," he said.

The subdivision has to happen, he said, and though the road from the new bridge will pass near him, that's life.

Marcus Lockwood has recently moved back after living in Australia for 15 years.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Marcus Lockwood has recently moved back after living in Australia for 15 years.

Mark Peacocke can boast the strongest connection to the area.

Peacockes Road got its name from his family, which has been living there since the late 1800s.

He loves the beautiful rolling terrain and terraces down to the river.

Experts say the development of the Peacocke area will begin at Dixon Road, where some houses are already being built.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Experts say the development of the Peacocke area will begin at Dixon Road, where some houses are already being built.

He can see why Hamilton City Council wants to develop there.

"It will be good for the CBD. There's been a lot of growth out to the north of the city which has left the CBD reasonably unbalanced," he said.

"There's only one major farm in [the planned Peacocke development] area, which is the farm that we run. We've got 600 cows on it." 

There's plenty of room for growth before that is affected, but the farm's future will likely depend on where development starts, and how fast it happens.

If central government comes to the party, development could start in two or three years.

Council is asking for a $240 million share of the Housing Infrastructure Fund, and would pour $162m of the interest-free loan into Peacocke.

That means 2350 homes could appear in five to seven years, according to council's indicative proposal.

Otherwise, the city waits until the council money for big-ticket infrastructure items comes due - over the next 10 to 30 years.

"For a long time, [Peacocke] has been seen as playing a very significant role in Hamilton's future urban growth," planning and economic growth manager Luke O'Dwyer said.

"People want to see it happen."

Waipa District handed Peacocke over to Hamilton in 1989 so the city could use it for future growth.

So far, there are only a few houses in the area - in the Dixon Road-Ohaupo Road zone. Further development would spread from there.

About 8000 houses could be built in the Peacocke area, which covers 720 hectares.

Infrastructure is key - starting with a bridge over the river from Hillcrest. That will be part of the Southern Links project, in partnership with the NZ Transport Agency.

Add main roads and wastewater pipes throughout the area and the bill is going to be more than $200m.

Council planners have accounted for the suburb's needs as it grows - allowing space for shops, schools, transport.

Mangakotukutuku Gully would be protected.

"There are some wonderful plant, animal species in there," O'Dwyer said.

Peacocke should provide space for Hamilton to grow for 10 to 20 years, maybe longer, O'Dwyer said.

"We think it's got the capacity for maybe eight, nine thousand houses. We're certainly consenting over 1000 houses a year at the moment. We're in a peak period."

Developer Roger Giles lives in Peacocke and has already subdivided about seven blocks, three of them in the past two years.

There's heaps of interest, he said, but he isn't expecting suburbia on his doorstep any time soon.

He's about halfway up Peacockes Road and said other areas will fill up first - Dixon Road, Peacockes Lane, for instance.

"To do any further subdivision out here, you have to be on a council sewer system," he said.

"You've got hundreds of hectares in between here that would have to go first to get the infrastructure out here.

"When I bought this, I thought, yep, 10 years later we'll have this all in residential. Now I think it's 20 years away."

As they build out towards the Waipa boundary, community should be key for Peacocke's developers, Waikato University environmental planning Professor Iain White said.

It's not about building houses, but building "the kind of community that we would like to live in in 20 years". 

"It could actually be one of the best places to live in Hamilton," he said.

"It's a huge bit of land that is actually pretty near the CBD.

"It's walkable, it's got the access to nature."

The frustrating part of the continual push north is it takes people away from places where council would like them to spend money, such as the CBD, he said.

"It's the kind of development that creates an increase in commuter time, it creates a strain on the roads.

"[Peacocke] just helps balance the city out a bit more."

The Peacocke plan looks solid, White said, so it would be a matter of well-timed section releases and political buy-in.

The Peacocke project is close to the heart of Hamilton Mayor Andrew King, who campaigned on freeing up more land for residential property.

It's been talked about and promised for 30 years, he said, so it's time to deliver.

"The land out there is north-facing, it's rolling country and it's good soil types and it's got beautiful river views," King said.

It would make a huge difference to property values in Bader, too, and to area schools.

There's potential for extremely valuable sections, plus more affordable sections away from the river.

Yet council has constantly pushed Peacocke projects out past the 10-year plan period, King said.

"We need to bring that back in, right in close.

"The first thing we need to do is spend close to $200m just to get the bridges in and get spine roads though and get services in ... We've got to get the sewerage pipes and stuff right the way back through to the treatment station in Pukete." 

With that done, "there's nothing to stop us. Nothing's holding us back any more from going as fast or as slow as we like".

But infrastructure is the name of the game.

"Some of Peacocke's traditional issues around the infrastructure and the cost of it is now being mitigated by the fact there's just such massive demand, said Rob Dol, Hamilton director of Greenstone Group.

Dol is immersed in the world of property, providing advice and project management in the sector at Greenstone, and serving on the executive for the Waikato branch of Property Council New Zealand.

"If the city wants to grow, the development community and council need to work together in releasing that land.

"The key is having developer-ready land - so it's land that's not only zoned residential but actually has the infrastructure to those subdivisions."

Marcus Lockwood got a sense of the city's growth all in one hit.

His family has lived in Peacockes Road for about 20 years, but he went to Australia for 15 years of those and has only been back for a few months.

"I came back thinking [Hamilton] is just going to be the same... It's growing a lot.

"I think the council just needs to tread very carefully."

Further down the road, near Peacockes Lane, Pauline Parkinson knows development's eventually going to reach her house.

She and her husband also bought 20 years ago, attracted by the rural setting and proximity to town.

It's "really, really handy" because he works at the hospital - there are quite a lot of medical professionals in the area.

"It's a wait and see game.

"We'll go along with it and decide if we want to keep living here or go somewhere else."

Hamilton City Council has until March 31 to pull together a business case and other supporting information, and the Government is expected to make a call before the end of June.

In the meantime, Hamilton is growing by 2500 to 3600 people a year.

Growth is cyclical, O'Dwyer said, but Hamilton hasn't had an upswing like this for more than a decade.

And New Zealand's fourth-largest city faces an unusual challenge.

"We're one of the smallest local government areas in the whole country ... We don't have lots of rural land at all," O'Dwyer said.

"Obviously there are challenges around growth - about planning and funding it and doing it in a timely manner. But these are great challenges for a city to have."

 

 - Stuff

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