Flaxmere Urban Design Framework

As the Flaxmere community has changed and grown over time so too has the need for the town centre to adapt. The Hastings District Council has recognised this need and initiated the Urban Design Framework to help guide future council decisions on urban form, land use and community projects in and around the town centre.

It will also help council demonstrate more sustainable ways of designing and developing the town centre to private investors, businesses and developers.

The Flaxmere Town Centre: Urban Design Framework is the next step in the community’s evolution as the “new concept in modern living” promised when the suburb was first built.

The Story of Flaxmere

Hastings District faced the challenge of a rapidly growing population.

By 1965, in booming economic times, council was enthusiastic about buying and subdividing over 400 acres that would become the new “elite suburb” of Flaxmere. Destined as an idealistic garden suburb, Flaxmere was planned originally as an “elite subdivision” intended to be more desirable than Havelock North and was to have all the modern amenities of commercial shopping centers, parks, educational and social services.

In 1967, council and the master builders of the area launched the “parade of homes” boasting “a new concept in modern living becomes a reality”. New homes embodied the latest ideas of the “sliding age” – open plan living, breakfast bars and aluminum ranch sliding doors. Sections sold quickly and by 1969, over 1200 had been sold.

1970s – 1990s
Sections continued to sell well into the next two decades, with council buying and subdividing over 400 blocks. By the 1970’s rampant inflation and increasing speculation started to derail council’s idea of providing affordable housing for the people of Hastings.

While residents’ groups worked hard to develop the shopping centre, community facilities and licensing trust, Flaxmere was prey to many of the issues pervading New Zealand in the 1980’s. Infill housing, economic pressures and government reforms amplified social issues and negative community perceptions.

A Government scheme to help people on low incomes buy their own homes was introduced to ease the transition from the old state housing system during the 80’s. Its intention was to allow people to buy homes without a deposit and their subsidized loans would be interest free for a period of five years in order to allow them to save money to maintain and upgrade their homes. This however was not the actual outcome. 

In addition to this, the council allowed cross-leasing of the sections and developers, eager to take advantage of the  government’s subsidised scheme were able to pack more houses in than had ever been allowed before; “Houses the size of triple garages are packed two – and three – to an eighth of an acre” *

Hastings District also suffered unemployment and depression following the 1987 crash which heightened the requirement for cheap housing and therefore aggravated the adverse housing situation developing in Flaxmere.

New Millennium
Since the start of the new century, Flaxmere has started to feel the benefits of new arrivals in the Hawke’s Bay looking for affordable housing, New infill development, such as Chatham Mews, is starting to attract new homeowners as well a providing a choice for retirees and local “empty nesters”. The shopping centre and community facilities are attracting people from around the Bay – an opportunity to build on in the revitalisation of the town centre.

As demand increases for the sale of ad hoc pieces of council owned land in Flaxmere, council recognised that it needed an overall plan to set the direction for future development.  The Flaxmere Town Centre plan builds on the priorities of the Flaxmere Community Plan and identifies which parts of the town centre may be sold and how they might be best used to gain the most benefit for the wider community.

What is an urban design framework?

A plan that shows future development for the community – a “master plan” of the possible places and spaces, uses and activities in and around the town centre. Urban design is about connecting people and their places – making a successful environment that works now and into the future. Hastings District Council has signed the NZ Urban Design Protocol, committing to creating sustainable and successful urban places for the community.

Sustainable urban places work well on all levels, to achieve the four well-beings:

  • Social – safe and attractive places that encourage a mix of people and activities
  • Cultural – special touches that reflect the culture and heritage of the place
  • Economic – healthy and vibrant businesses with opportunities for working and shopping locally
  • Environmental – reducing the impact on the planet, making it easier to walk and save energy

The urban design framework will help guide future council decisions on urban form, land use and community projects in and around the town centre.

The Flaxmere Urban Design Framework

Council approved the development of an urban design framework on 12 December 2006 which was then ensued by the commissioning of a design team in mid 2007. The design team lead by Chow Hill Consultants included professionals from the following disciplines:  urban design, architecture, landscape architecture, transportation, sustainability, planning and economics.

This team reviewed background documents and consulted with residents, retailers, businesses, property owners, developers, community groups, government services and Council staff and representatives with workshops held in August 2007.

A draft framework was completed in October 2007 and adopted by council for public consultation in February 2008. Subsequently this consultation was initially delayed by the sale of the shopping centre. Support from public consultation confirmed the priorities of the community and generated a general consensus on the need to improvement Flaxmeres Town Centre.