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Government to override their Housing Accord with the Council

Last week the Government announced it had reached a housing accord with the Auckland Council in a bid to get more houses built and ease issues over housing affordability.

The legislation, to be introduced to Parliament as part of Budget 2013, will enable Special Housing Areas to be created by the Auckland Council with approval of Government. In these areas it will be possible to override restrictions on housing put in place by Auckland’s eight predecessor Councils, like the Metropolitan Urban Limit.

Qualifying developments in these Special Housing Areas will be able to be streamlined, providing they are consistent with Auckland’s Unitary Plan, once it is notified, expected in September this year. New greenfield developments of more than 50 dwellings will be able to be approved in six months as compared to the current average of three years and brownfield developments in three months as compared to the current average of one year. The streamlined process will not be available for high rise developments that will need to be considered under existing rules until the Unitary Plan has been finalised in 2016.

“This is a three year agreement to address these housing supply issues in the interim until Auckland Council’s Unitary Plan becomes fully operative and the Government’s Resource Management Act reforms for planning processes take effect.

“The Government respects in this Accord that it is for Auckland to decide where and how it wishes to grow. The Government is giving new powers for council to get some pace around new housing development and is agreeing on aspirational targets to ensure Auckland’s housing supply and affordability issues are addressed.

Overall the accord seemed straight forward enough and fairly sensible. At a high level the council would decide on a number of Special Housing Areas. Qualifying developments within these areas are able to use a fast tracked process to get consent and would have to comply with the rules in the Unitary Plan when it is formally notified later this year.

Housing Accord 1

To me the accord seemed fairly positive as it would make it quite easy for medium density developments – the kind that will likely be the majority of intensification that occurs – to happen in any brownfield areas selected. This was especially the case as a site only needs capacity for 5 dwellings to qualify. There was one issue though, while the council would be able to select the special housing areas, the government had to approve them. That leaves the question of what happened if the council and government couldn’t agree on where the special housing areas should be.

Today it seems we have our answer. Along with the budget, the government has introduced the legislation to enable the special housing areas to be designated. Nick Smith has also issued a press release about it which includes this.

“If an accord cannot be reached in an area of severe housing unaffordability, the Government can intervene by establishing special housing areas and issuing consents for developments.”

Budget 2013 includes $7.2 million over four years to help the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment fund the initiative.

The legislation will go through its first reading as part of Budget 2013 before being sent to a select committee for a shortened six-week timetable for urgent consideration and progress.

“This legislation is an immediate and short-term response to housing pressures in areas facing severe housing affordability problems,” Dr Smith says.

“This provides time for the Government’s substantive changes to resource management reforms and the subsequent council planning processes to bear fruit and address these land and housing supply issues in the longer term.”

In other words, if the council and government can’t come to an agreement on the locations for the special housing areas, the government will simply override the council and do what they want. It makes a complete mockery of the announcement that the government and council made last week. It turns out that this is not a case of both sides compromising but one of the government twisting the councils arm behind its back to get their way while also forcing the council to smile at the camera and pretend everything is good.

Len Brown has obviously also been surprised by this as he has already come out with the statement below.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown has welcomed the introduction of legislation for housing accords, but says he will be seeking clarification on a number of points to ensure the final legislation is consistent with the draft Auckland Housing Accord.

“There are clauses in the bill introduced today that appear to be inconsistent with the Auckland Housing Accord,” says Len Brown.

“My expectation is that the Select Committee process will provide an opportunity to clear up these inconsistencies.

“Clearly, in relation to the accord, the point of the legislation is to give effect to the agreements we reached.

“The accord still needs to be considered and agreed by the Auckland Council’s Governing Body. Before we can do this we need to be certain that the legislation is consistent with the agreements in the accord.

Len Brown said he would be writing to Housing Minister Nick Smith to raise questions about the consistency of the accord and the current bill.

The Housing Accord is an agreement between Auckland Mayor Len Brown and the Minister of Housing aimed at tackling issues of housing affordability and supply in Auckland.

It is subject to agreement by Auckland Council.

The streamlined consenting process outlined in the accord can only take effect once the council’s draft Unitary Plan is adopted for notification – expected to be September this year.

It would also be interesting to see how the government determine housing unaffordability, my guess would be the flawed Demographia study as it is something that the government have pointed to in the past.

89 comments to Government to override their Housing Accord with the Council

  • I would hope that the fact an accord has been reached means that the Government’s power to direct the issuing of a subdivision consent does not exist. But I agree this is of concern. It would help if the bill was actually available but as at writing this I cannot find it on line …

  • Linz

    Time to show a bit of mongrel, Len. 100k plus voters (I forget the exact figure) voted for Len and his vision of a compact, liveable city. The pro-motorway, pro-sprawl candidate got shown the door. Not a single person voted for Nick Smith or imagined that he would end up running the city. Neither did the voters of Canterbury, by the way.

  • Liam W

    I expect that next on the govt agenda is the ‘Local Government Deletion Bill 2013′…

  • Starnius

    Ridiculous. Stop this constant centralisation of our nation’s government – we are not (yet) a banana republic!

    And I agree – can Len please stop saying “thank you” every time he gets slapped in the face by John Key and his cronies?

  • jonno1

    OK, let’s step back a bit. First, as others have said, we don’t yet know how this process will pan out so it’s a bit early to panic. Secondly, the backstop position will only cover extreme situations that are most unlikely ever to eventuate. Finally, in the unlikely event of an impasse of this nature there has to be an established means of breaking the deadlock, otherwise zero progress will be achieved. Or to put it another way, how about a bit of positive thinking rather than constant complaining!

    • Jonno the issue is it changes the playing field. Yes there needed to be a backstop but this shifts the balance of power considerably as the government could just refuse to accept anything other than what they way. Before this announcement the agreement did at lease seem balanced.

      As for the comment about constant complaining, I suggest you read the post prior to this one or even the post on the original announcement of the housing accord.

      • jonno1

        Matt, I’m sorry that I expressed myself poorly; I wasn’t referring to your post re complaining, that is very informative and balanced. It’s just that comments often seem to focus on the bad rather than the good aspects of a post or topic.

        As for the balance of power, the government of the day (of whatever hue) will always hold that, that’s a given. So you are right that the government could act in bad faith (as could the council), but we can be sure that either party would be called on that very promptly.

        • Sacha

          “you are right that the government could act in bad faith (as could the council), but we can be sure that either party would be called on that very promptly”

          Silence in the wake of ECan seems to contradict your optimism about that.

      • John Polkinghorne

        It would not be surprising if the bill ended up referring to the supposedly independent Demographia reports, which define “severe housing affordability” as: areas where the median house price is more than 5 times the median household income.

        Which is most of Auckland, unsurprisingly (the citywide ratio is 6.7, Demographia thinks). Which would pretty much give the government carte blanche to do whatever it likes wherever it likes. Hopefully it doesn’t go that far.

        • Sacha

          The government is indeed slurping the Demographia kool-aid about an ‘affordability’ threshhold:

          “But the conditions could be imposed wherever housing is deemed “seriously unaffordable”, that is, with a median house price five times the median income.

          This could include Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch, Nelson and Queenstown.

          “I’m not ruling anything in, or anything out,” Housing Minister Nick Smith said yesterday. “

        • Walkablecity

          Demographia is indeed the key report used to underpin the policies around housing affordability for AKL. I sat in a meeting where Nick Smith said that, verbatim. And he’s been clear that the Productivity Commission report findings has led to the key decisions/initiatives we’re now seeing. unfortunately the terms of reference were political rather than evidence based, and also based upon the theory that Demographia is the touchstone for gauging affordability, even if it doesn’t look at much beyond home ownership.

  • WAI

    Well, actually the council could calculate the costs for opening the land (if it is forced), like roads, wastwater, power, PT and put it in as an added addition in the rates sent out to all households. Guess that would put a lot of public pressure on Govt. And people would get shown how much the sprawl costs.

  • Bob

    Surely any developer would have difficulty putting in a new suburb without the councils support. Council could refuse to build any infrastructure. Good luck getting services to be put into place, which is wholly dependent upon council staff.

      • Gordon

        Bob / Sailorboy – Therin lies the problem Auckland has had for a decade. “Good luck getting services to be put into place, which is wholly dependent upon council staff”.

        Said “Council staff” are unelected with many of them clearly driven by an ideology that is ‘anti-development’, as bourne out by their development contribution charging. That is PRECISELY why we are in the crisis we are in !!. Can’t you see the irony?. Little wonder Central Govt are having to step in.

  • My initial interpretation of this is that if other councils can’t come up with similar accords then the govt may ‘step in’.

  • Steve D

    There are a million potential ways that councils can undermine the Special Housing Areas if they’re forced through against the council’s wishes. Presumably the Act will cover code compliance as well as resource consent, and there will be non-discrimination provisions for rates and so on.

    But the government also has the implied threat of simply unseating the council and replacing them with commissioners, on the fairly reasonable grounds that they are being uncooperative. National did it with Kaipara, which was understandable and ECan, for nakedly partisan reasons. They would do it again in an instant if it was necessary to implement their housing policy.

  • Sacha

    For those speculating Councils could thwart provision of supporting infrastructure, this govt has already said it’s an element of their ‘affordable’ housing changes.

    Expect it to be taken out of normal consenting processes, perhaps under the control of the compliant national environmental agency under the ‘rebalanced’ RMA.

  • I attended a meeting on Monday night of the Karaka Collective. The collective is a group of landowners who wish to collectively develop their properties on the edge of the proposed Rural Urban Boundary. They want a bridge from Karaka to Weymouth as it supports their development plans. Up until today this proposal had a low probability of support as neither the Franklin, Manurewa, Papakura Local Boards supported the proposal. Auckland Council had even removed the bridge from the Unitary plan with a preference to develop the existing transport corridors.

    Under the new Bill these developers can essentially smooze the Government and get their development approved. This is nanny state control of Council and is the beginnng of developer led Urban sprawl. They are undermining the Unitary plan and Auckland plan. If Nick Smith and John key want to control Auckland then they should put their names forward for Auckland Council.

  • obi

    Auckland Council is not sovereign… the Government of NZ is sovereign and delegates powers to Auckland Council. What this is doing is the Government requiring Auckland Council to ensure that there is a supply of affordable housing, and saying that it will intervene to resolve matters if Auckland Council fails to meet this requirement.

    I don’t see that any of that is unreasonable. Certainly the federal governments in the US and Australia will step in if their states fail to perform the required duties of states. Think of Eisenhower’s forced integration of southern universities against the wishes of the southern state legislatures. I don’t see that NZ councils should have more sovereign rights than US or Australian states.

    • So why not get rid of local government and leave it all up to central? You seem to think that local aspirations are totally unnecessary.

      • obi

        Local aspirations are fine. But it is still reasonable for central government to require local government to carry out certain functions to a certain standard. Take, for instance, a DHB. If they’re not organised enough to deliver health services then central government has a responsibility to step in and do something about it. Or take a school that isn’t organised enough to teach students. Central government can’t reasonably say that the school board is elected so that’s just tough for the students. Central government is where the buck stops.

        • Sacha

          Your examples are of local agencies being “not organised enough” – feel free to provide some evidence that this in the case here.

          • obi

            The measure is a contingency: “If an accord cannot be reached in an area of severe housing unaffordability”. Note the use of the word “if”.

            An example in the past is ECan, who were unable to agree the water plans they were required to develop over an extended period. Eighteen years? Labour relieved at least one school board who were unable to manage a school. They also stepped in and took over a DHB, although the reasoning behind that was muddled and seemed to include the commercial interests of a cabinet minister’s husband.

          • Sacha

            So the only reason an Accord might not be reached is if the Council concerned is not ‘organised’ enough?

          • obi

            No. But a contingency measure doesn’t have to list any all or any of the reasons that the contingency might eventuate.

    • Aside from the undemocratic meddling the whole thing is entirely predicated on the lie that more sprawl will produce affordable dwellings. It won’t because it can’t. Expensively serviced new lots on the periphery will be expensive to buy, they then must be built on and the occupants must somehow be able to afford to access these disconnected new locations.

      Or is the government you so approve of going to subsidise the servicing of these subdivisions, or perhaps force the ratepayers to? In which case it isn’t the ‘new supply’ to a market distorted by Council red tape that has improved the market but a subsidy. A subsidy that could apply anywhere. This is just ideology and a scheme to force a wealth transfer to land bankers dressed up as doing something about housing affordability. Hurrah.

      • obi

        “Or is the government you so approve of going to subsidise the servicing of these subdivisions, or perhaps force the ratepayers to?”

        This “subsidy” is mostly a myth. Council provides infrastructure that is paid for out of future rates income and user pays income. New subdivisions also need new supermarkets, but Woolworths don’t force house buyers to stump up cash in advance to build a supermarket because the groceries they buy for the next fifty years fund it. Also, intensification is also going to require infrastructure improvements. The water and sewerage systems that were designed for low density detached houses are often not going to be sufficient for apartments. The same old infrastructure won’t have the capacity for a million extra people just because you’re building up rather than out. So… The council needs to provide upgraded infrastructure regardless. Someone will have to pay. Future rate income and user pays income from a million extra people will suffice.

        • It all hinges on the quantum, so which typology is likely lead to the more affordable final dwelling and be cheaper for the city and state to fund:
          1. A new 3 bedroom detached dwelling on a 500M2 site in a new subdivision with 100% new infrastructure [everything roads, services, schools] 10s of kilometres from centres of employment. Or
          2. A smaller apartment or terrace house with a land footprint at a fraction of the figure above on a brownfields site already served by roads, power, water, schools, shops, and public transport.?

          Is this really about housing affordability or about fixed notions of ‘kiwi lifestyle’ and ‘what everyone wants’ and, of course, vested interests?

    • You are quite right that the NZ parliament is sovereign through the doctrine of parliamentary supremacy – actually we are only one of three countries (UK, Israel) where that is true as we dont have a constitution. It is actually more difficult to do that in the US or Australia.

      So obviously if a Green/Labour government steps and uses legislation to force the CRL to be built and require densification of St Heliers and Milford (just to choose random examples) you would be equally sanguine? Or would that be a gross violation of democratic rights – like when the Council tries to do it?

      Or would it depend on the political leaning of the government?

      • obi

        I don’t think this central government power should be used arbitrarily. I’d prefer that government laid out a list of responsibilities for local government along with performance measures, and only took action if local government failed. For instance, DHBs might be required to operate on all urgent surgical cases within one month. Or councils might be required to process all resource consents within six months. Or councils might be required to not dump untreated sewerage in to the sea. I’m not sure about how you’d put a metric around housing affordability, but maybe a performance measure around limiting house price inflation may be workable. Or central government would only get involved if local government was seen to be holding up the process of building sufficient homes to meet population increase.

        In terms of transport, I’d be a bit concerned about central government mandating specific projects. I think it is reasonable for central government to require councils to produce a transport plan that is agreed by councillors, supported by the public, and has identified how projects are to be funded and built. There might also be justification for central government getting involved if local government are unable to implement the plan they’ve agreed, but part of this justification is because it is likely that central government contributed some of the funding.

        The organisation of central and local government and the governance processes doesn’t effect individual property rights. The fact that local government is granted its powers by central government and central government can take these powers back doesn’t create a dictatorship that can seize people’s homes and redevelop them by force.

        • “can seize people’s homes and redevelop them by force” – Woah there. I think you have been reading too much stuff written by Dick Quax and Cameron Brewer. Are you suggesting that using governemnt power to force rule changes to allow (not force) higher densities would lead to people’s houses being seized. That is a gross misrepresentation and frankly scare mongering.

          “I’d be a bit concerned about central government mandating specific projects” – How does the Holiday Highway P2W or any of the other government favoured roading projects in Auckland not fall into that category?

          “Or central government would only get involved if local government was seen to be holding up the process of building sufficient homes to meet population increase.” – but what about if a government wanted to force a pro-sprawl Council to loosen anti-density rules? Couldnt that be just as valid? Plenty of research evidence that says that is the case and that density can deliver cheaper housing. You might not agree but that is a position, not a fact (and of course, vice versa for anti-sprawl).

          IMHO, it just sounds like you are dancing on the head of a pin to justify why one right leaning government is right to use certain powers (presumably because you agree with the aims) but a left leaning government would be wrong to use the same powers (presumably to achieve something you dont agree with). It also seems to fly in the face of all the arguments from predominatly right wing commentators about not using “Stalinist central planning” to decide the shape of the city. This stinks of central planning.

          • obi

            “I think you have been reading too much stuff written by Dick Quax and Cameron Brewer.”

            No. I was addressing your question about whether “a Green/Labour government steps and uses legislation to force the CRL to be built and require densification of St Heliers and Milford”. Government can ALLOW densification. It should not FORCE it, unless it owns the land. FORCE and REQUIRE were your words, not Quax or Brewer’s.

            “How does the Holiday Highway P2W or any of the other government favoured roading projects in Auckland not fall into that category?”

            They’re national infrastructure that is paid for by central government. There is a difference between central government developing and paying for its own projects, and forcing local government to develop and pay for projects that central government wants.

            “but what about if a government wanted to force a pro-sprawl Council to loosen anti-density rules? Couldnt that be just as valid?”

            Yes. Of course. Generally I’m in favour of an organic approach that allows people to do what they like with their own land, provided they don’t hurt their neighbours. One of the problems we’re seeing with the current Auckland plan is that it has far too much detailed central control (such as required carpark numbers for marinas) and far too little “wisdom of crowds”. I’d encourage central government to loosen all sorts of unnecessary rules in local government plans.

            “IMHO, it just sounds like you are dancing on the head of a pin to justify why one right leaning government is right to use certain powers”

            I’m taking a consistent position in favour of central government being able to require local government to perform required functions efficiently. But I feel like I’ve teleported in to rural Texas and I’m surrounded by a bunch of pro-states-rights rednecks.

          • Quite right, I used those verbs in the wrong way. I meant only force the rules to be changed, not force densification. You are right you would have to use some draconian measures to force either densification or sprawl.

            I agree those roading projects are central govt projects and the CRL is not but only because this government has declared itself anti-rail and pro-roads. IMHO the interview with Gerry Brownlee made that quite clear.

            “Yes. Of course. Generally I’m in favour of an organic approach that allows people to do what they like with their own land, provided they don’t hurt their neighbours..” – Yes I agree with you – as you will see from my comment below. We should remove all rules about how land is developed.

            However as a lawyer, I know that “provided they don’t hurt their neighbours” is the kind of rule that only fuels one industry, the legal one. I know libertarians love that principle, and I am all for it on social issues but it can be a nightmare when it comes to land rights.

            I dont think too many pro-states-rights rednecks would be arguing for denser cities!

        • Kevyn

          ” The fact that local government is granted its powers by central government and central government can take these powers back doesn’t create a dictatorship that can seize people’s homes and redevelop them by force.”

          It can and it has. CERA is under the direct control of Cabinet with no Parliamentary oversight, and all this was justified with words such as emergency, crisis and exceptional circumstances, all of which can be applied to Auckland’s housing crises by skilled spin doctors.

    • Interesting that the darling of the pro-sprawlers, Houston, is actually now looking at ways to encourage high density:

      Amazing that developers there are complaining that it is too difficult to intensify and build smaller lot houses.

      I personally am starting to come round to the idea that we need to just get rid of all the development controls (urban boundaries, minimum parking, minimum lot size, minimum set back, height restrictions) and just have some quality controls. It seems that no matter what strategy the loacl or central government tries, the best system is the one that was used to create the cities in Europe, let people decide to live where and how they want.

      I personally dont believe this will lead to sprawl or huge desnity. I think we will end up with a city having average density levels around what we now see in Ponsonby and St Marys bay – small houses on small lots. It is easily possible to build terraced two storey housing on 200sqm lots – two levels of 100sqm with a small garage and a 100sqm yard at the back/front depending on north/south orientation.

      If people want to go and live in Coatesville then good luck to you.

      • Yeah I’m not unsympathetic to that view, certainly have no interest in telling people where or how to live, nor believe that it’s really possible, but certain things, like services and transport cannot be individually chosen and must be built, or not, by all of us. And this provision has to be selected and funded somehow.

        Somewhere there’s a middle road…..

        • Yeah and of course the choice of transport will also affect where houses are built. Five minutes frequencies on the CRL will of course create a demand for dense housing close to rail stations.

          It is definitely not a panacea to all our woes but it would at least create a level playing field where we could really identify where developers see the demand. From my recent experience of trying to buy a small home on the isthmus for a new young family, I think good quality terraced housing with a small out door area is where a lot of the demand sits. Agents told me they can basically sell as many as are on the market.

    • Anna

      Sovereign or not. Local government have delegated authority to govern. Central government is interfering because it thinks it knows best. Central government has no electoral mandate to undermine local government. The threat of intervention backed up with the reality of a budget to do so indicates that it is very serious. Nanny state? Tin pot dictators more like. And so what happens if Auckland council doesn’t play ball by rolling over and reprioritising current investments to facilitate urban sprawl? Who knows but enforced asset sales don’t seem that far fetched.

      • Gordon

        Local Govt needs to be nationalised. We only need one Govt in NZ and that is the one we vote for in general elections every 3 years. Let Local Govt be another Govt Department reporting upward to Ministers of the Crown. Local Govt with a head office in Wellington and branches throughout NZ, to collect rubbish and do the minor local jobs, street lighting etc.

        Local Govt has proven to be run by unelected technocrats at the operational level that claim powers to involve themselves in every facet of our lives, from massive beuracracy around buildings to bizarre tree policies, They are not needed, they are redundant.

        They clearly (almost exclusively) have a leftist view constantly in conflict with the will of Central Govt (whoever that elected Govt may be). It’s time we rid ourselves of the technocrats in local government, the people that gravitate to it for their power trip, and who in the case of Auckland have proven time and time again not to be up to the job of what a Local Govt needs to be.

    • Sacha

      Thanks Steve. This part of the intro clarifies the over-rides:

      “The Bill provides for the following situations, in terms of the way in which council plans will be considered in relation to special housing areas:

      – if a proposed plan describes an activity as prohibited, the activity will be treated as if it were a discretionary activity:

      – if a plan states that an activity is prohibited, but a proposed plan classifies it as controlled, restricted discretionary, discretionary, or non-complying, the proposed plan will apply:

      – if the activity is prohibited in the relevant operative plan, and the proposed plan anticipates that the land to which the request applies will be available in the future for a qualifying development, but is silent as to the rules that apply to that development, an applicant may request a variation to a proposed plan:

      – an applicant may also request a plan change if the activity the applicant is seeking to undertake is prohibited in the relevant plan, and a proposed plan continues to describe the activity as prohibited or there is no provision for qualifying developments in a proposed plan.

      Where an applicant requests a plan change or variation, the Bill provides for a faster process than is currently the case. Unless the adjoining owners give their approval, such requests will go through a limited notification process and will be completed within 130 working days.”

    • Steve D

      Importantly for Auckland, the Special Housing Areas can’t be established except when the council agrees, as long as they have an accord. So the government would need to give 6 months notice and cancel the accord completely if it wanted to establish one unilaterally.

    • Good spotting, that is six months minimum of legislative work, probably planned in 2011.

      The below clauses 25 and 26 are of concern as there are generally evidenced based reasons why an activity is prohibited.

      25 Applications relating to activities prohibited in plan but not proposed plan
      (1) A person may apply to the authorised agency for a resource consent for an activity that—
      (a) is described in the relevant plan as a prohibited activity; but
      (b) is described in a proposed plan as a controlled, restricted discretionary, discretionary, or non-complying activity.
      (2) The authorised agency, when determining an application made under this section, must treat the activity as if the description in the proposed plan applied.

      26 Applications relating to activities prohibited in proposed plan
      (1) A person may apply to the authorised agency for a resource consent for an activity that is described in a proposed plan as a prohibited activity.
      (2) The authorised agency, when determining an application made under this section, must treat the activity as if the activity were a discretionary activity.

  • Topcat

    Auckland Council may not be sovereign but it is elected byAucklanders for a specific purpose, to ensure good public amenity and provide specific services and utilities. NZ government is elected NZers 72% of whom are not Aucklanders. Spot the conflict of interest.

  • No this is busy body nanny state interference with Aucklands delegated authority. The Government had known about the compact city plan since Draft Auckland Plan in 2011. It let Auckland Council spend millions $$$$ consulting on the Unitary plan and now with two weeks to go it has undermined it.

    There are plenty of affordable homes in Auckland.

    It is peoples expectations of where they want to live that is unaffordable.

  • Tamaki

    Can someone find out which people or Trusts own all this land on the periphery. It would be an interesting list.

    • Howick E

      And also whether there has been any recent changes in ownership perhaps?

      • Gian

        this reminds me so much of 1970-80s Italy when Berlusconi was getting rich buying greenfields outside Milan and thanks to his influences ($$$) and friends in the reigning Socialist party he could get the designation changed and quickly cash in or develop.

      • obi

        You might also want to find out who owns land around railways stations and in the CBD that will increase in value if the rail tunnel is built, and if Brown doesn’t back down on intensification. Last week we found that the Labour Party had accepted $430k from a property investor and failed to disclose the donation. What was he wanting for his money?

    • Steve D

      Land ownership data is available free from the LINZ data service. You can view and query it on the website, or download it if you have GIS tools.

      You need to create an account, and apply for access to the land ownership data. There’s a simple licence agreement, where you promise to redact private data if asked, e.g. because it’s been suppressed by a court.

    • Mr Bean

      Bay of Plenty example-

      Tauranga developer Bob Clarkson is “absolutely rapt” at new housing measures allowing the Government to take over resource consents from local councils in efforts to speed up the building process.

      Legislation to streamline new housing developments was announced in yesterday’s Budget, allowing the Government to establish “special housing areas” and issue consents if needed.

      Mr Clarkson told the Bay of Plenty Times the announcement was a personal victory.

      He has for some time fought a losing battle to get his land at Tauriko rezoned for residential development, despite offering affordable housing to try and fast-track the subdivision plans.

      The land overlaps the boundaries of Tauranga City Council and Western Bay of Plenty District Council.

      Mr Clarkson said he had been liaising with Finance Minister Bill English’s office about the issue as recently as this week.

      “I’ve been waiting with bated breath for this,” he said.

      Ex Nat MP Bob Clarkson.

  • George D

    The reasons for this are entirely political. They’ve correctly determined that the electorate, including a great number of their voters and potential voters, are concerned by housing prices, and it’s something that risks those votes. They also see that Labour and the Greens have come out with high profile policy announcements on housing – an area previously uncontested. So the Government has a need to ‘do something’.

    The result is something that fits in with their multiple worldviews. Firstly, they value personal autonomy; and they translate this through a lens in which a standalone house and a car in the driveway maximise this. From what I can tell, sharing a wall or a vehicle with others is seen to be an impediment to this. Secondly, it fits in with their arcadian visions of New Zealand, which emphasise the rural and peri-urban. Despite the fact that the large majority New Zealanders now live very much in cities, rather than outside or beside them.

    It also fits with a simplified version of development, in which private businesses come along and provide new housing in attractive ways, at little or no cost to the ‘taxpayer’. This is despite the fact that the costs of new infrastructure are very large, and must be paid by someone – either the new residents or the council and thus ratepayers. It also is very much a choice for, rather than by, the new residents. Since allowing development in one are, and preventing it in others is to set the terms and conditions under which people must live. The fact that housing prices in central Auckland are rocketing is because Auckland and central Governments have until now set in place rules that prevent the amount of construction needed – at the same time as imposing an MUL. Property developers like greenfields development though, because they can build on cheap land with lower costs, and charge the same prices – making the enterprise much more profitable.

    The fact that the property development industry is close to National MPs helps to cement all of these together.

  • Sacha

    I thought the Labour donation thing was a bequest, in which case the answer would be: not much quid pro quo :)

  • JeffT

    I noticed media reports the last two days interviewing two first home buyers. One family were looking for a house in Grey Lynn the other wanted a property near a rail station. Only two families but neither were looking for a house out of the central area on brown or greenfield sites. And of course as stated, everyone’s rates will go up to pay for the new infrastructure and people will have to drive from further out increasing the congestion on the motorways.

    I think the Government are following the wrong policies. From what I’ve seen at auctions, restricting non-residents from buying residential property would go a long way to taking the heat out of the auckland market. If that wasn’t sufficient, a CGT on investment properties.

    Not more sprawl and possibly reducing loan to equity ratios considered by the Reserve Bank which just hurts kiwi buyers.

    • Anna

      Making housing affordable is such a gimmick. Council maybe needs to develop rules to ensure that the real cost of development for these areas falls to the developers and is not subsidised by ratepayers.

      • The only housing typology that can be truly affordable and actually in Auckland is the attached one. Undeveloped distant land is expense to service, expensive to get to and from once occupied, and in any event not cheap to buy. Apartments and terraces houses need only return a much smaller fraction of their land cost each and can be built in areas that are already serviced. But the government and it’s supporters refuse to accept this logic.

        And then there are the quaking ninnies like the Herald’s Bernard Orsman who seem to think that a three story dwelling in a city is ‘high rise’. :

        So between the sprawling ideologues in government and the ‘i’m in jack, close the door’ liberal bedwetters like Orsman both dwelling affordability and an better city look impossible.

        So it goes.

        • Unfortunately most comentators ignore the cost of developing a sprawling city vs intensified. The intensified model makes use of existing inner city capacity like stormwater, wastewater, transportation networks, electricty, and voice/data. In parts of the city there is already existing infrastucture capacity for intensified developement.

          With urban sprawl the infrastructure has to be built. So you need a committment from industry to provide electricty, voice/data which may require a public subsidy. Then the developers need a committment from Council/Government to proivide stormwater, wastewater and transportation networks. This all has to be funded, amortised, depreciated and maintained.

          At last weeks Karaka meeting the developers were suggesting a targeted infrastructure rate be introduced so that we all pay for the infrastructure for their development.

          To fund a 1 billion dollar Karaka bridge and highway would be an approximate $200 targeted rate rise for all Auckland rate payers (amortised at 7% over 30years).

          So now that government has pushed Auckland Council down the spawling city model, the big question is who will pay for it all and at the end of the day will this really provide affordable homes?

          My take on it is if there is infrastructure capacity (just like roads and project microcar) then we should concentrate of maximising that infrastructure capacity. As mentioned earlier there are plenty of affordable homes for sale in Auckland, peoples perceptions of where they want to live is unaffordable.

          • Further to that Toa, even if you were building the same number of new dwellings on greenfields, intensive development would cost less to service by infrastructure than extensive development.

            Take wastewater for example. 1000 new units need the same trunk sewer capacity whether they are spread out houses or contained terraces. But the houses would occupy an area say three times as spread, which means the collector pipe network would be some three times as long.

            Or put another way, my apartment building has one big connection to the sewer main. The same forty units built as separate houses would need forty small connections to the sewer main. It’s always going to be cheaper to build one big connection than forty small ones.

  • Franks Al

    Surely an increase in rates for unoccupied land which is not actively farmed, held for longer than say two years might reduce some of the benefit in land banking. Know the land tax idea was rejected but surely councils have the power within their rating structure for a targeted rate to free up land? No point extending the boundary to reduce house prices if only a few developers hold the land and push up the price anyway!

  • Gordon

    Lets not forget why we are here. The Select Committee on the Local Govt Act 2002 (predominantly Labour/Greens) sanctioned local government taxes on developers (so called “development contributions”). Councils began charging anyone building anything $5k per unit in 2003, by 2009 that had progressively increased to $40,000 per unit. The Select Committee members deliberately designed the facility for a local tax on developers, and left leaning unelected Council bureaucrats fed on it for all it was worth.

    I wanted to do a one off project, build 2 townhouses in Auckland in 2008 and keep them as a form of retirement income 20 years down the track. The Council deliberately set up hurdles that were near on impossible to get over, rediculous time consuming costly hurdles. 2 years and $43k of Council costs later the resource and building consents (why 2 consents, why not 1) were ready to pick up at the counter, and Council demanded another $70K right there and then over the counter in local taxes (development contributions). I slid the consents back across the counter and walked away down $43k in sunk Council cost and 2 years of battling with them.

    Even now, I want to do a slightly different development, and to pour the driveway to 2 sections (approx $45k in concrete and labour costs), the Council are demanding I pay them a cheque for 1.6 times the value of the driveway, about $75k ..apparently just in case I dont complete the driveway at the end of the build. Just a rediculous imposition, tying up capital I dont really have spare, as its needed to build the damb driveway !!.

    I could see 4 years ago a massive housing crisis developing in Akld, I regularly mentioned it to colleagues. I knew Central Government would be forced to step in as Local Govt are ideologically not set up to deal with housing growth, they oppose it and reluctantly drag their feet when they have to. I am please Central Govt are taking over, as Local Govt have failed their mandate to assist Aucklanders with affordable housing by deliberately restricting supply.

  • Gordon

    Why we are at this point !, further comment on the LGA 2002 Select Committee
    comments by the Minority view of The National Party on that Committee:-

    (Quote), National members of the Local Government and Environment
    Select Committee strongly disagree with the process, policy, and
    detail of this bill.

    National believes that this bill provides an open-ended approach to
    the functions of local government. Therefore the general powers will
    cause confusion and inefficiency between local, regional, and central

    National believes it will result in increased duplication of
    services and inefficiencies, and, when things go wrong, a lack of
    accountability and buck-passing. National believes Parliament
    should clearly define the role and function of local and regional

    National objects to the ideological skewing of the bill that contradicts
    the powers of general competence. Councils will have a freer
    hand to invest in particular activities but not divest in areas such as
    ports, housing, and water systems. This introduces a structured bias
    towards expanding councils and their playing an ever-increasing
    role in our economy and citizens’ lives.

    National believes that increasing the size and involvement of local government
    will only make harder the ambition to return New Zealand to the top half of
    the OECD. The bill, if it is to be truly democratic, should at least be
    neutral on issues of investment and divestment.

    National does not support the inclusion of Treaty of Waitangi provisions
    in the bill, which seem a mechanism for the Crown to pass on
    to councils its Treaty obligations. The further provisions regarding
    additional consultation required of Maori, special provisions for
    setting aside rates, and for special representation do not meet
    National’s ‘one standard of citizenship’ test. National believes these
    provisions will undermine good race relations and will add further to
    compliance costs.

    National believes this bill will result in a huge increase in bureaucracy
    and compliance costs associated with the multiple planning
    and consultative requirements. National is concerned that the experience
    of the Resource Management Act, in which National believes
    there have been unanticipated costs of over $500 million to ratepayers,
    will be repeated and that the same errors are set to recur with this

    National is disappointed that evidence on the substantial costs of the
    consultative procedures was ignored nor was it subject to any cost benefit
    analysis. Nor does National believe these consultative procedures
    will improve councils’ responsiveness to communities, but
    rather that they will simply be more vulnerable to tyranny of a vocal

    The one area National does support the committee’s deliberations is
    in reversing the decision to scrap voter franchise of non-resident
    ratepayers. Taxation in the form of rates without representation is an
    injustice fought for a long time ago and should not be lost” (end quote).

    Also note:- I am not a National Party supporter, never have been, but how correct
    they were on the LGA 2002 and fiasco in Auckland that has been created !.


    • That’s a big call to blame all of Aucklands issues on the LGA2002. The LGA2002 has not created the housing crises and the LGA2002 is not responsible for driving up the costs and compliance for housing.

      The reason why we have a housing crises is over the 90′s and early 2000′s the National Government ignored repeated calls from various building industry experts to tighten regulations on the new types of houses being built.

      Neckminit…… Tens of thousands of leaky homes and a housing crises. So now we all will pay for Nationals ideology that “cuts red tape” and “gets rid of busy body bureaucrats” etc.

      John Key and Nick Smith have no idea what they are talking about when it comes to town planning. The special housing zones will only led to massive unplanned infrastructure costs which public will end up paying for.

      • JeffT

        Being a politician must be the only job where you’re not responsible or held accountable for bad decisions. Great gig.

      • Anna

        Indeed. The recent dia report into housing affordability highlighted that development charges are a small 2-3 percent if costs. Ratepayers already subsidise a substantial proportion of development costs. Do suck landers really want the growth anticipated? Are we ever asked I am pretty sure most would say that development should pay a far greater proportion than what it currently does. Perhaps govt could o copy itself more constructively looking to policies that favour investment in something more productive than residential housing and encouraging a better sprawl of immigrants.

    • Anna

      Gordon perhaps medication may help?

      • Gordon

        Anna – Typical far left communism comment from you, your jibe encourages people like me to point out where your ideology fails, as it always has.

        Development Contributions 2-3% of building costs ehh?.. you must be joking !!!. You are on record here as saying developers need to pay MORE, as you put it the “true costs” and not have ratepayers pay. ‘Supply and Demand’ dictate how many houses are built in Auckland, and supply is constrained because developers were priced out of the market predominately by Council costs, no profit in it at all, all the risk on develops, and bureacratic nightmate to contend with.

        I myself am not a developer & not a National Party supporter, so no personal axe to grind in this area, but you really need to research your facts before posting. People like you are the reason first home buyers are priced out of the market, you simply don’t understand basic economic principals.

        Toa – The LGA2002 IS the reason we are in this crisis in Auckland, Development Contributions (Local Govt Taxes) ARE the reason developments were not being built, they made building uneconomic. A 10 apartment complex attracts $350,000 in DC and on top of that at least another $150k in direct Council charges for consent processing (up to $200 per hour times an unlimited number of hours), monitoring, visits etc etc.. On top of that, the usual charges, Engineering, Architectural, Surveying.. TIMES 2, because you pay for all of that, and then Counci make you pay again to have subject experts review the first subject experts work, all paid for by the person developing.. massive costs ..and then 2 years delay getting it processed, .. it goes on…. Come talk to mid to large scale developers in Auckland as I have, research the economics of building .. a well known fact they left for Wellington and Australia around 2004 because Akld Council had driven them out. Name a high rise apartment complex built in the Auckland CBD since 2006.. you can’t, none were built. That is the COUNCIL doing that, Development Contributons did that. FACT !!.

        These facts could be debated for ever and a day, a housing crisis has developed in Auckland due to a lack of building, a lack of responsiveness from Council, Council costs way in excess of what is reasonable, no profit for anyone. That can’t be explained away by leaky buildings from the 90′s Toa. This is a crisis that has developed over the last decade.

        • Sailor Boy

          Left leaning=/= communism mate.

          Also, communism isn’t inherently bad.

          By the way, how does one get here from Whale Oil?

          Also, the reason that there have been no developments in the CBD for 6 years is that capital is constrained by the GFC. Are you really that narrow minded?

        • So you dismiss 10′s of thousand of leaky homes as not contributing to the crisis?

          How about the bulding companies that declared bankruptcy as they could not remediate the leaky homes. The the 2003-2006 housing boom which was largely immigration driven. The housing slump of 2007 leading into the 2008 global meltdown and subsequent recession to 2012.

          National is trying to blame everything on the LGA2002 to justify their dodgey housing accord legislation and busy body control of Auckland Council. All they are creating is developer lead urban sprawl which will lead to massive unplanned infrastucture costs.

          I sympathise with your development dramas and acknowledge that the previous Auckland City Council did have huge fees and that these costs may have moved onto the new Auckland Council. But these are not the reasons why there is a housing crisis. It will be a reason why houses are now so expensive.

          FYI Manukau City had minimal developer fees over the previous period which clarifies my point that the hosuing crisis is not LGA2002 or developer fees related.

  • According to the North Shore Times of May 17,
    “Strong opposition to intensification … is being credited with forcing mayor Len Brown to make a major back track.” For a long period of time I have held the view that the best journalism in this paper is the Pak n Save advert, but if this indeed true it is a huge concern for the advancement of intensification.

    I attended one of the local meetings and the level of analysis by most participants was at an emotional level, rather than an intellectual one. Here’s how part of it went. “Lake Road is clogged. Development at Belmont will make things impossible” (to drive our cars as often as we want at whatever time we want!).

    Someone from Council says, “We are spending $51 million on Lake Road startting this year” — yes I heard 51 million.

    Meeting generally ignores this comment and proceeds along the same theme as before.

    The other point is that the Council has not had a chance to view any written submissions as the period is yet to close. I sincerely hope that the Mayor has not formed a view on what may prove to be only a portion of the total response.

    Or is the Council only going to intensify the streets /suburbs where there is no disagreement to intensification? If that is the case then we probably won’t have anything apart from my street, given that I will be so vigorously in support of it.

    This whole process seems to be turning into a debacle and I am not sure that we have the strong leadership necessary to take us through it.

    • Gordon

      taka-ite .. I hope you will be at the Takapuna Grammar School meeting at 4.30pm today, I will also be there as an observer. I have not been to any previous meetings (Belmont for ex) but I read the notes, and it all seemed very emotive as you say.

      Of course, we would not be in this crisis if Council had of been up to the task over the last 10 years. The experience I have had was one of it being totally and utterly impossible to build anything. I have a rental property on 1,400sqm, bought in 2006, luckily there were 4 lever arch files of history I obtained from the estate agent/seller, and those files showed that since 2001 there had been 4 previous owners of the property all had drawn up plans for another dwelling there and submitted to Council, ALL had had to walk away many thousands of dollars down the pan because the costs and time involved had their plans spiral out of control. I myself spent 2 years (late 2007- early 2010) battling to get 2 townhouses built, and I had to walk away $43k down the pan, now I am battling with them (Council) again to split the property up into 3 x 470sqm sections, again costs spiralling out of control. So now 6 (thats right SIX) attempts by 5 different owners over the last 10 years to develop this site. My neighbour wanted to put a single bedroom on their 3 bedroom house, Council immediately demanded a $68,000 cheque, they scrapped their plans many thousands of dollars down the pan.

      Whilst I would prefer Council to open up corridors for development, for example the Albany to Silverdale area, to a mix of tasteful housing low end, middle and some upper level quality, minimum plot size 450sqm, to 700sqm, .. it appears Council simply oppose this, as Len Brown says, we dont want another Los Angeles, .. well the alternative is 4 level housing in Belmont, 6 levels on Lake Road, up to 18 levels in Takapuna. I am not so sure thats totally appropriate either, although a level of intensification is OK if its done tastefully. I also agree I am not sure we have the ‘leaders’ that are up to the job, no surprise to me Central Govt having to step in. I have been saying for 5 years I was expecting that would end up happening.

      • Sailor Boy


        Excuse my French, but are you fucking insane?

        Do you have any idea how expensive that will be to rate payers?

      • Gordon – I live in Bayswater and was keen to go to that meeting until I saw who was running it, the Auckland 2040 group. I am pretty sure my pro-density views would not be welcomed even though I am exactly the kind of person everyone keeps saying the affordable housing crisis is affecting most – I have a young family. If it had been a proper feedback session by someone who matters, not a NIMBY group, I would have attended.

        I am sure that the predominantly grey haired group sat around and all agreed with each other that Lake Road is too “congested” (i.e. 15 mins to Esmonde Road turn off, in my observations for maybe 20% of the time) and that density is not in line with the “community spirit” or “Kiwi values” or whatever other slogans are being rolled out. I dont feel like spending my Sunday arguing with Baby Boomers that things have to change and that we arent living in the 1950′s in a city of 500,000 people anymore – I would rather spend it with my family.

        But by all means pull up the drawbridge. Let the young families go elsewhere and turn the area into a retirement home for Baby Boomers.

        Let me ask, have you ever lived in an apartment or high density housing? I have and there is nothing wrong with it, even for families as long as there are nice facilities nearby like parks and activity centre for children. It would be great to see the old Navy housing on 1,000sqm sections (on which I am yet to see a child playing) redevloped into good quality terraced housing on 200sqm each. There are plenty of playgrounds nearby for children in safe areas.

        The new developments at the Devonport and Bayswater ferry terminals and the 15 min frequencies on the Lake Road bus give the area a chance to move from its rampant auto dependency. That is progress.

        Anyway, I am sure if you do reply you will tell me that I dont understand and I dont appreciate the character of the neighbourhood. The cry of reactionaries for hundreds of years.

  • MFD

    So how expensive will it be? Actual dollar figures, please.
    ..and what is it with the mental health references? Do you have some sort of problem with someone who doesn’t meet your idea of “sane”?

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