Planning in Kerikeri: a case study

The $21.5M SH10/Waipapa Road roundabout opened at last in December 2020.


It is not only a very welcome asset but (when fully completed) solves some long-standing planning issues arising from a major development at Waipapa nearly 20 years ago. It has lessons about how we plan in Kerikeri. The story of the planning, or its lack, is instructive.

In 2002, James Bergman, a developer gained consent for an Industrial Zone on Rural Production land for what has become the Waipapa “big box” retail area. Council approved it without necessary infrastructure, adequate connectivity to its principal customer base at Kerikeri, or wider planning. The development was linked to SH10 through a single road access point. The area is prone to flooding, and the road access is engineered as the flood pathway with ultimate flow into Kerikeri River. There was no connection between the east and west sides of Waipapa township because a Klinac Lane/Waipapa loop road link was not built. Communication between them was via State Highway 10 which increasingly had to act as a suburban feeder road, although it is part of the Twin Coast Highway. The Warehouse, the first building on site, opened in 2005. Its roof area is huge; its rain collection capability reflected in the huge water tank storage at the rear of the development (see picture below). There is still no industrial sewerage system and only commercial development with limited water disposal is able to be built there.


Kerikeri’s population was increasing rapidly. By 2007 the new area was developing fast as a bulk retail/service area and generated much increased traffic between Kerikeri and Waipapa. This was entirely predictable and lack of infrastructure planning and connectivity soon became apparent.


A bit of history

Access between Kerikeri and Waipapa was either across the single lane Stone Store bridge and along an inadequate Waipapa Road to the SH10 intersection, or via the Kerikeri Road/SH10 intersection. Both were traffic bottle necks and a source of danger, and needed a roundabout, but integrated planning did not occur because the State Highway network is managed by NZTA and is outside Council jurisdiction. One of the NZTA criteria is based on accident numbers. The Kerikeri road/SH10 intersection had high accident numbers and with the lobbying of local residents, NZTA (formerly Transit NZ) constructed a roundabout in 2007.


The Waipapa Rd / SH10 intersection was dangerous to the extent that motorists exhibited extreme caution and despite having 13,000 vehicle movement per day in 2018, it had difficulty gaining an NZTA priority.


The Heritage bypass bridge

The next milestone in improving connectivity between Kerikeri and Waipapa was the opening of the $13M Heritage bypass bridge in 2008 although the impetus came from flooding at the historic Stone Store from the old bridge that caused a debris dam in floods. The bypass replaced the single lane Stone Store bridge with funding from the Minister of Arts and Culture, Helen Clark’s budget. Together with the widening of Waipapa road in 2008/09 travel became safer and quicker. However despite this improvement, vehicle queuing and congestion remained highlighting the need for a roundabout.


The Waipapa/SH10 roundabout

A Waipapa Road roundabout had been on Transit New Zealand’s (now NZTA’s) work-plan since at least 1996. Council was pressing strongly for it in 2008 and Deputy Mayor Ann Court (supported later by VKK) has been a strong advocate for 30 years on safety grounds.


The $24.5M SH10/Waipapa Road roundabout opened at last in December 2020 with $17.7M funding from the Provincial Growth Fund, and within the next few months will at last link eastern and western Waipapa commercial areas as well as much improved safety and efficiency.


It has taken nearly 20 years and the costs have been an eye waitering $24.5M for the Waipapa roundabout, $13 M for the Heritage bypass bridge and additional costs for the Waipapa Road widening and the Kerikeri Road/SH10 roundabout.

Summary

We have got away with less than adequate strategic planning. The infrastructure issues are now resolved after nearly 20 years (except for a Waipapa sewerage system) but it has required very large contributions from Central Government. This is appropriate as a small council with few ratepayer’s and limited revenue sources cannot generally build infrastructure before development. The Provincial Growth Fund recognised that to a degree.


Conclusions

Was the placing of big-box retail at Waipapa appropriate?


The population was growing rapidly, especially after Kerikeri was voted the best small town in NZ by “North & South” magazine in 2002. The commercial value to the district of Waipapa’s retail and services is very apparent and Kerikeri township had little available land.


There are, however, lessons to be learned. A more strategic view before allowing large developments is required. Kerikeri still lags behind similar District Councils with its forward planning despite this being long recognised as a problem. The 2007 Kerikeri Waipapa Structure Plan, intended to lead to more detailed planning, appears to have been ignored, even denied, by successive Councils. The earlier 2000 Structure Plan vanished into oblivion, like many other Kerikeri plans. Effort and money have been squandered on the year 2100, 80-year navel gazing planning exercise and the Integrated Transport Plan for the Far North, processes which gave an illusion of an effective community contribution but have provided little confidence in an acceptable community outcome for the long-term future growth of Kerikeri.


The population of greater Kerikeri is now 13,350, and growing, but we appear to be no closer to planning for it. Vision Kerikeri’s input over the years has largely been ignored. Our Kerikeri was created due to the same local frustrations.


There are a number of key issues after a long period of inadequate planning which need consideration including:

  • A plan for urban design for the CBD.

  • Lack of road connectivity

  • The misuse of our natural resources. Since the report produced for FNDC in January 1996, “Horticulture Soils, Economics and Opportunities for the Far North” which recommended that the 2% of the total land area of the district of high value for sustainable horticulture, should be preserved. Kerikeri’s fine volcanic brown loam has continued to be subdivided and built on compromising future critical food production.

  • Walking and cycling infrastructure. We have a dispersed population. Safe cycling would reduce many car trips.

The last two issues are relevant to planning for climate change.

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