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Motueka in 25 years time - looking through a crystal ball

December 10th, 2010
By Ian Miller

If you have ever tried to turn right out of Tudor Street or sat at a compulsory stop at the Clock Tower and grumbled about the traffic, imagine what the traffic in High Street will be like in 25 years time.

With Motueka's population increasing at a pretty consistent 1.3% per year it is not hard to believe that the town will have a population in excess of 16,400 in about 25 years from now, which is about a 38% increase over the current population of 11,900. If the Kaiteriteri, Riwaka, Mariri, Lower Moutere and the lower Motueka Valley areas are included, the greater Motueka region population may almost double that, which will greatly contribute to our main street congestion.

With the Ruby Bay Bypass road now complete we need to think about the effects this will have on Motueka. This new road will take a lot of traffic from the rural lifestyle blocks proliferating along the hills between the coast and the Moutere and make it easier for them to go to Richmond. There was also intended development in the vicinity of Old Coach Road for more vineyards but this may be postponed or cancelled now. The land may instead eventually become lifestyle blocks, but either way development here will mean more jobs, more houses and more tourist and other traffic - much of which will use the new road.

The new bypass will also make Motueka an easier commute from Nelson and Richmond so this may make Motueka and even more popular place to live. This increased traffic flow should eventually lead to more demand in Motueka for housing and services of every sort.

Motueka's population will eventually reach the stage where the town's services are inadequate. Historical growth rate calculations might well be too low as an indication of future growth once the town's services become inadequate and more business people arrive to provide the required services. Population growth is likely to compound.

As long as the sun keeps shining it is hard to imagine why Motueka will not continue to grow once the current economic problems are resolved. I believe Motueka's desirable climate and surrounding countryside is something of a well kept secret. Once word is out and there is more work here to support intending new arrivals, I am convinced that people will come to live in significant numbers. This growth will come from people arriving from overseas and the usual retirees and refugees from the North Island and the lower South Islands bracing climate.

What seems to holding back growth in Motueka is room for housing development and light commercial and industrial space. One could argue that property prices have also keep out those with only modest means, but the current correction in property values might at least partly solve that problem.

The Tasman District Council anticipates that Motueka will need the following extra land to support for future growth: 24 hectares of land for industry, 15 hectares for commercial use and 5 hectares for retail space.

The Tasman District Council, with input for the Community Board, is or was looking at zoning issues now as much "empty" land within the town area is zoned Rural 1 or Rural Residential which makes it difficult to develop.

There are some obvious areas for residential development and they would seem to be:

  • the new subdivision beside Fearon Street,
  • across the road between Thorp Street and the coast,
  • the bare land between the cemetery and the back of Trewavas Street south of Old Wharf Road,
  • behind Thorp Street to the west towards the Thorps Bush drain,
  • Courtney Street East behind the Catholic Church,
  • land off the end of Courtney Street West and
  • behind the houses along High Street between Whakarewa Street and King Edward Street.

There will be some other patches here and there and the Council has the intention, rightly in my opinion, of keeping the growth of Motueka within the perimeter of Queen Victoria Street, the roundabout at the south of High Street and north to Parker Street where the new subdivision is well under way.

Until the present time there were typically 40 new houses built in town each year while the number of houses built in the whole Motueka Ward has averaged approximately 66 per year over the previous 4 years.

Another issue restricting growth is the lack of jobs in the area and many potential immigrants to the area are deterred because they cannot see any opportunities for work. Many are not prepared to do horticultural labouring work.

Here is a list of some of Motueka's obvious shortcomings:

  • Zoning changes needed to allow for future housing growth.
  • Lack of land for light commercial and industrial development.
  • Urgent need for a main street bypass for State Highway 60 with a new bridge over Motueka River.
  • Expansion of the shopping centre with shops possibly facing out onto Decks Reserve car park along the service lane.
  • The road connection being completed between Manoy Street and Talbot Street.
  • Possibly creating a pedestrian lane on Council and Parklands School/Maori lease land between the Gothic and the Mooring Café's that will lead to the new Manoy / Talbot Street connection. This will take some, mainly high school, pedestrian traffic away from Parklands School sports field and Whakarewa Streets.
  • More recreation facilities including walking and cycle tracks, a heated pool and the opening up of a recreation area in the beach and sand hill area between Thorp Street North, the sewerage ponds and the coast.
  • Power, water and sewerage services may become inadequate.

The population statistics show an increase of population of about 6.6% between 1996 and 2001 and about 5.7% between 2001 and 2006. Census Night Motueka Urban Area Population Counts - not including Riwaka, Kaiteriteri and other outlying areas:
1996 - 10,563
2001 - 11,259
2006 - 11,904

If the average growth rate is taken at 1.3% per year then the population compounded for 25 years will be about 16,400 in about the year 2031.

If you add the population of rural areas around Motueka into the mix then the numbers of people using Motueka as their town centre will increase even more.

Planning for the future is difficult, subject to argument and expensive. The cost of developing infrastructure has to be spread over future years. Many of the present ratepayers are likely to be dead by the time some of the loans are repaid and just do not see the need to pay for this development. Conversely younger residents may feel that they will be unfairly burdened with the cost.

It is doubtful if there is any way of funding for future growth that will satisfy everybody. The debate over the heated pool was a classic example of many ratepayers not seeing any need for a facility while many others thought it was a "must have". All you as a "local" can do is make a considered decision when asked to support any controversial proposals for future development. The development might not be of interest to you but is likely to be of interest and benefit to the next generation.

Years ago Motueka was a rural backwater but not any more. Like it or not this town, with arguably the best climate in New Zealand, is poised to grow.

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