Mangawhai population explosion challenges are being addressed by the council. - Photo: Susan Botting/Local Democracy Reporting
Mangawhai locals will this summer have their chance to contribute to a $15 million Kaipara District Council management plan for their coastal settlement - one of the fastest growing centres in New Zealand.
The Kaipara District Council Mangawhai Community Plan (MCP) provides a framework for managing the settlement's huge population growth challenges and moving forward on $15 million of infrastructure and amenity projects including transport and walking and cycling.
Mangawhai is Northland's fastest growing area. The seaside settlement's population is forecast to increase by 15,000 permanent residents in the next 20 years. That growth forms a backdrop for an annual summer population explosion of 8000 visitors who triple the settlement's usual 4000-strong permanent resident population.
The community will have a chance to have its say on the plan's further development in February. KDC is holding a public information meeting at Mangawhai domain on December 9 to outline its progress to date in spatial planning for the settlement.
"What's perhaps more uncommon about this community plan is that we're aiming for it to inform all our other relevant Kaipara District Council planning documents" Jim Sephton, (SUBS: CORRECT) Kaipara District Council (KDC) general manager, infrastructure said.
Mangawhai is rapidly transforming from a small informal beach settlement of holiday houses into a town, due to its proximity to Auckland and high recreation and scenic values plus popularity as a destination.
"Trying to keep the coastal characteristics and recognise the heritage of the place is very tricky," Sephton said.
Richard Gunson, Mangawhai Business Association chairperson was part of the community-lead panel that in 2017 spent a year working amongst the community, with Kaipara District council (KDC) support, to put together the MCP foundation.
"It's quite exciting for the community to be able to have the community input," Mr Gunson said.
A 10km 3.5m wide shared path from Mangawhai Heads in the north, to Mangawhai village in the south, is just one of the features community wanted which has been incorporated in the plan and is now being initiated.
Mangawhai's growth has happened in higgledy-piggledy fashion in the last two decades, amidst exploding population growth.
Lynda Wintle, a Mangawhai Heads resident for 42 years, said Mangawhai had changed hugely since she first arrived, traffic being the main issue.
She said the MCP was too little too late.
Traffic 'main issue'
Work on dealing with the settlement's traffic and parking should have started years previously.
In response, KDC's Sephton said it wasn't possible to change the past, but it was possible to face the future together and get the right things in place at the right time.
Huge Mangawhai traffic congestion caused by the summertime population influx is being dealt with via a special new summer traffic management plan to be brought in for the first time from December 16 this year to February 2020.
A new first-time free 'heads hop' bus will be trialed this summer, transporting people to and fro' along the six kilometres from Mangawhai Heads Beach in the settlement's north to Mangawhai Village in the settlement's south - with half a dozen stops en route.
And a much-talked about new one-way system will be trialed in Wood Street - the 'Queen Street' of north Mangawhai's small central business district hub.
Wintle said Wood Street plans for one way traffic were a step in the right direction.
The street was always congested with parking making it difficult to get to the supermarket. This was, particularly in summer, frequently due to the often several vehicles towing boats queuing to get into the next door service station to refuel.
Kiran Ahuja, Mangawhai Service Station said director said it was not the case boats were queuing two or three deep to get into her service station.
Ahuja said the one way plan was okay in principle, but it was essential it didn't result in loss of business due to resulting access problems to the street and her business over the busy summer period. This time was her business' main income earning period which enabled it to survive through quieter times for the rest of the year.
A community meeting outlining the Wood Street one way system is being held at the Mangawhai Golf Club tonight (SUBS: Tuesday 3 December).
A multi-million development in the middle of Mangawhai is just one of the settlement's growth activities currently underway - including plans for a retirement village, petrol station, supermarket and up to 700 homes.
Blue green infrastructure is one of the MCP's key approaches. This focusses on connecting people with nature using the coast, streams and creeks as track routes. A network of paths including the shared path and off road tracks is being developed.
Slow streets - using landscaping, crossing points and roundabouts to bring speed down is another MCP feature. Connecting Mangawhai's several separate communities by making it safer and more attractive to cycle and walk is also on the agenda. Options for vehicles to travel around rather than through Mangawhai were also being considered.
A key feature of its management efforts also focusses on managing where future housing and other development will be located through spatial planning.
The Mangawhai community Plan features innovative approaches to the settlement's urban design.
The MCP was adopted by Council in June 2017. The projects identified in the MCP were included in KDC's 2018 Long Term Plan.
Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the Newspaper Publishers' Association and NZ On Air.