Karl Gradon, general manager for strategy at Toi EDA, noted that while the housing situation was bad in Tauranga and Rotorua, in fact the two worst towns in the region statistically were Kawerau and Opotiki.
“You will not find worse conditions in the region for overcrowding and housing shortages,” he said.
“It’s absolutely critical in the Eastern Bay. We have the leading rate of rheumatic fever in the country, which is a key indicator for overcrowding and dampness.”
Gradon said he felt there was a huge challenge in the region, but disagreed with Kainga Ora’s decision to continued investing in Tauranga and Rotorua to try and resolve housing challenges.
“We have had extensive discussions with them,” he said. While they were said to be considering the difficulties in Opotiki, there was no sign of immediate change, he said.
“There’s a huge amount of [housing] work especially with the amount of work to be done and the huge jobs being created in the Eastern Bay,” said Gradon, who estimated there could be 7000 jobs created by 2030.
“We don’t have constructors to build them and that means we have to attract talent,” he said. “We’ve already seen where projects are bringing people home, but they don’t have anywhere to live.”
Gradon noted that Opotiki was a large centre of new kiwifruit developments.
“We’re asking central government to come to the Eastern BOP and provide a total support package to build new resident housing in outlying rural areas rather than focusing on problems that are real, as in Tauranga and Rotorua, but not as systematic.”