Motueka needs to sacrifice some of its prime productive land if it is to grow as a town, and "it needs to happen bloody quick", says Tasman district councillor Barry Dowler.
A significant area of land to the west of High St and a small amount around Decks Reserve – about 100 hectares in total – has been earmarked for residential and industrial development by the Tasman District Council in its Motueka west and central development plan.
At least 80 per cent of the land is owned by Wakatu Incorporation.
Council policy planner Rose Biss said Motueka had been growing steadily for the past 20 years, and the land was needed to meet the business and residential demands of the future.
Council projections showed that the town needed 635 more houses in the next 25 years, and another 44ha of retail, industrial and commercial land in the next 50 years.
Under the draft plan, about 40ha is zoned light industrial, 40ha is zoned residential, and the rest is zoned mixed business and commercial.
Ms Biss said it would take several years before most of the land was developed – apart from that around Decks Reserve and a strip along King Edward St – because services needed upgrading before development could occur.
Those who may notice a change in the more immediate future include King Edward St resident Debbie Ahearn, whose property zone would change from residential to light industrial.
Ms Ahearn was told at a meeting in Motueka last Thursday that she would have no protection from having an industrial business pop up next door, and it could happen as early as the middle of next year.
Another King Edward St resident, Shirley Frater, said she was concerned that the plan meant pouring concrete on "some of the prime horticulture land in New Zealand".
Council policy manager Steve Markham acknowledged that there would be a loss of productive land, because "all of the land under Motueka is great land", but said such a loss was needed to absorb the town's growth during the next 50 years.
"There is an inevitably about Motueka growing. We have to sacrifice good soil."
Mr Markham said the council had a responsibility to respond to the long-term need identified for additional business land, and that the industrial development to the west of High St could host "quite a wide spectrum of industrial activities".
He said business owners would face stringent rules about noise and pollution.
Mr Dowler said the development would bring employment opportunities to Motueka, something the town needed desperately.
He said he bought the last developed industrial section in Motueka 10 years ago for his vehicle testing business, and "there's nothing else sitting around".
"There's nothing for anyone who wants to come and set up here, and our kids are leaving town because there's no employment."
He said he knew someone who would employ 20 people if he had somewhere to build, but he might go elsewhere if he couldn't find a place to do so in Motueka.
"We're waiting. It's got to happen bloody quick."
The council is seeking comment on a draft plan change to its Motueka west and central development plan until May 23.
Details at tasman.govt.nz.
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