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Building consents through the roof

Houses being built on Tuatahi Ave, Masterton. PHOTOS/JADE CVETKOV

Gearing up for growth

The building boom has gone bonkers in Wairarapa, with two district councils smashing records for the number of new residential building consents issued last year.

Masterton District Council [MDC] issued 262 new residential building consents in 2021, a massive jump on the year prior [176] and a great deal more than its previous record high of 191 in 2018.

South Wairarapa District Council issued 185 new residential building consents last year up to November, compared to a previous record in 2018 of 114 for the whole year.

To ensure development was sustainable, the key planning document for all three Wairarapa councils was the Wairarapa Combined District Plan. The plan was under review, with public consultation on the changes likely next year.

The plan set out where and how development could take place.

Staff were kept equally busy by subdivisions and development before new residential building consents were issued, particularly in Masterton.

Last year, MDC received 119 subdivision consent applications, with 607 lots approved.

For comparison, there were 196 new lots approved in Masterton in 2017.

MDC building control services manager Steven Williams said there was no question that 2021 was a challenging year for the council staff who dealt with consents, but he was proud of what the team had achieved.

“Just as those in the building industry have felt the pressure, so have council staff,” Williams said.

Masterton’s Building Control Services team carried out almost 7000 inspections last year.

“The team is committed to meeting the obligations and responsibilities of the council as a Building Consent Authority, playing an important role in the growth of Masterton.

Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson said the council’s focus was on delivering the best of rural provincial living.

“And it is clear from the current level of building that people are seeing Masterton and the wider district as a good place to live and bring up children,” she said.

“The Wairarapa Combined District Plan was developed 10 years ago, and it allowed for the areas where Masterton’s urban boundaries could grow.

“The market demand for new housing in the last five years has seen many of those areas fill up with new housing.

“We have also seen a marked increase in in-fill housing.

“Our current review of that Combined District Plan is a major undertaking ahead of us, where we will again consider where growth can logically occur.”

The process would include opportunities for public feedback.

Patterson said Masterton’s infrastructure remained in a good state to cope with growth after the community’s prudent investment over the last 10 years, particularly in water and wastewater systems.

In general terms, residential consents [including work such as fireplaces right up to new residential building consents] made up about 70 per cent of consents.

Each approved consent would also lead to the requirement to inspect work.

In the case of a new residential home, up to a dozen inspections were needed – more if work needed to be reinspected.

This added to the workload of the Building Control Services team, with close to 7000 inspections carried out in Masterton last year.

The number of Building Control Officers employed by MDC [six] had remained unchanged since 2019.

While the council was recruiting for two additional building control officers, the recruitment environment was challenging, with many councils similarly busy and competing for staff.

South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] planning and environment manager Russell O’Leary said the high number of new residential building consents issued last year came about from people deciding that building a home was cost-effective, that South Wairarapa was an attractive place to relocate, and a general uplift in residential growth.

“The high number of consents is keeping our staff very busy, but they continue to process applications in a timely manner,” O’Leary said.

“Planning is an important feature of residential growth; however, as we see it, the district’s current building boom is really driven by available land and a growing desire to build new.


“To sustain this rising population growth in South Wairarapa, the council recently released its first Spatial Plan, which has a strong focus on residential growth areas looking out to 2050.”

O’Leary said the Spatial Plan would help structure the provision of housing for South Wairarapa’s three towns.

The neighbouring district of Carterton did not have a surge in new residential building consents last year.

In 2021, the council issued 73 new residential building consents, compared with 108 the year prior and a record of 117 in 2017.

A spokesperson said that on top of this, 22 houses were relocated to Carterton, “so 95 in total additional dwellings”.

They said resource consenting had doubled the year prior, with 101 consents received in 2021, creating 185 new urban lots and 252 rural and commercial lots.

“We usually see the average time delay between a resource consent and building to be about 18 months.”

Last year, Carterton District Council approved the Carterton East Structure Plan, which would provide for an estimated 462 extra residential sections.

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