Rising to challenges, now

The world has always been changing, but in the last couple hundred years it has changed enormously, and the rate of change is increasing. Somehow we have to adapt to these changes without stuffing up the economy or the planet.

Rod Oram (Newsroom):  Be bold to thrive in a changing world

As it happened, 1980 was also the year we Kiwis began to realise our tried and true economic orthodoxies were failing us. So, we made radical changes in that decade, which helped us prosper in the following two.

This year we must make even bigger decisions about our economy, society, environment and international relations. But the orthodoxies we learnt in the 1980s and 90s continue to largely define our debates today. Thus, we believe some tweaks to business as usual will keep us going.

Yet evidence from around the world shows us the present, let alone the future, is no approximate continuation of the past. Economies are stagnating, politics are polarising, societies are shattering and environments are degrading. Only fundamental changes will turn those around. Any nation failing to respond constructively will be far worse off.

Social change has been pronounced too. We’re less conservative and more ambitious; we’re more ethnically diverse, yet more confident in our ethnicities and our Treaty relationships; and MMP has made our politics more representative and our governments and policies broader-based, and in some ways more effective.

We’ve considerably degraded our ecosystems, as Environment Aotearoa 2015, the Government’s first comprehensive report across land, fresh water, air and marine domains showed us. Many measures continue to deteriorate, subsequent updates confirm.

The world keeps changing. We have little influence on those changes, so New Zealand has to try to adapt to those changes.

Resolving the big debates

Setting us on the right course will take innumerable initiatives by individuals and myriad strategies by organisations, with the help of many key policies by Government. In turn, effective policies are best shaped by rigorous, broad and informed debate involving all the people affected by them.

We need urgent resolution of many of those debates. Here are snapshots of six of them:

Capital gains tax:

Any economy is distorted if one source of wealth generation is favoured over others. In our case, the lack of tax on most capital gains feeds the housing market, starves business investment and disadvantages wage earners.

Fair pay agreements:

Our businesses and their employees need to become far more sophisticated and flexible so they can keep up with, or better, exploit warp-speed changes of business skills, technology and markets. A fair pay agreement is a bottom line in a sector which encourages employers and employees to be ambitious.Good companies and their people will far excel the low bottom line of a fair pay agreement.

Wellbeing budget:

In May our government will announce its first cut at a Wellbeing Budget, based on the Living Standards Framework Treasury has been developing since 2011. There’s a fair measure of support for this from some business leaders.

No doubt, though, this partial and rather simplistic first version will be criticised as being far too complicated, a distraction from pure economic measures, and an unrealistic attempt to measure the unmeasurable.

All good progress is hard.

Zero Carbon Act:

To tackle our monumental challenges of climate change and related aspects of unsustainability we need a very long-term goal for drastically cutting greenhouse gasses, a system for setting interim targets and a way to measure our progress towards them.

My column last week described the unassailable logic of this and the great benefits other countries are reaping from it.

Resource management reforms:

When we passed our Resource Management Act in 1991 it was world-leading for its twin goals of promoting economic development while protecting the environment. Many amendments since have improved it in some respects and hindered it in others. Overall, though, it has failed to adequately deliver on either ambition.

Given our vastly increased economic activity and the resulting escalation of demands we’ve put on our environment in the past almost 30 years, further attempts to modify the RMA simply won’t work.

…we need a fundamental redesign.

Relations with China:

China has changed hugely over the past decade. Its economic scale and technological prowess, and its global influence and sense of power have grown dramatically. Yet, it has become more authoritarian in political and social terms, while reasserting the clout of state-owned or influenced corporates over private enterprises.

Consequently, economic and political tensions between China and the US, EU and many other countries are escalating fast.

Now and for evermore we need to be very clear what our values are and who we share them with; if that causes some slowdown in our growing ties with China that will help us from becoming too dependent on China; that in turn will make us less vulnerable to adverse pressures from it and will help preserve our options and resilience.

The first five sound like a pro-Government manifesto. China is a problem the Government has in part created and has to find a way of dealing with.

Housing is barely touched on under CGT and not even mentioned under the RMA.

Rising to all of the challenges above, and many more, is utterly daunting. If we are so timid as to believe tweaking business as usual will get us there, we’ll fail. But if we boldly embrace the wonderful opportunities for us in this fast-changing world, we’ll succeed.

So if we do what Oram and the Government says they want to do we should be good.

Bridges urges RMA reform now, but National blew it while in Government

Simon Bridges has joined the chorus singing for RMA reform, but Peter Dunne has given a timely reminder that National were off key and blew their chances of reform while in Government.

RNZ: National leader Simon Bridges urges RMA reform over $100m for Māori land ownership

Yesterday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones announced that the government’s Provincial Growth Fund would spend $100 million on supporting Māori landowners to make better use of their land.

Today Mr Bridges told Morning Report the government was just throwing money at the issue and although $100 million sounded like a lot of money it would just “scratch the surface” for a select few.

“It may be a bit harsh but I think it’s a waste of money. You’re throwing it at a select few but you’re not actually going to help Māori.”

Mr Bridges said he would instead help Māori land ownership through law reform.

At yesterday’s announcement Ms Ardern said 80 percent of Māori freehold land was under-utilised and unproductive because the special status of some land made getting loans difficult.

Mr Bridges said the government was making the same mistake as it had with KiwiBuild.

“The one thing that is required is Te Ture Whenua Māori land reform. That’s what’s got to happen because the complex legal intricacies of multiple owners mean it’s always going to be incredibly difficult to do this unless you get that law reform. It’s not a question of the financing.”

“They think if they splash some cash at something there’s good politics in it. But just as with Kiwibuild what you actually have to do is hard law reform around the Resource Management Act,” he said.

Fair point. It is widely known that the Resource Management Act generally is stifling development.

Last month Dave Cull, president of Local Government New Zealand, said RMA ‘broken’, not fit for purpose for local government

To build at scale, the Government is looking to give the UDA the power of compulsory acquisition to assemble large parcels of land and the ability to shortcut the onerous public consultation processes required under the Resource Management Act (RMA).

It is an acknowledgment that the RMA is too consultative and encourages a tragedy of the anti-commons. This is where everyone gets a say in a development, not just affected parties, and as a result many worthwhile projects never get off the ground.

The RMA’s consultation requirements also vastly complicate the already fiendishly difficult matter of assembling land for urban development.

The current Government is trying to work around the RMA with new Urban Development Authority (UDA), responsible for delivering on the Government’s KiwiBuild programme.

The Government is also going try to fix the RMA: Two-step RMA reform to start by fixing the previous government’s blunders

The changes are separate from the legislation to set up an Urban Development Authority to fast-track housing and urban development projects.

“The Resource Management Act is underperforming in some critical areas and needs fixing,” David Parker said.

Stage One will reverse some objectionable changes made by the previous government in 2017 that were widely criticised.

For example, the Bill would repeal measures that prevent public notification and appeals by applicants and submitters in residential and subdivision consent applications.

Another change, recommended by Regional Councils, is the ability to upgrade groups of consents in line with updated standards. This will help speed the cleaning up of our rivers, which otherwise can be delayed for decades.

A Bill addressing changes that can be made straight away will be introduced to Parliament early next year.

It will address particular issues with resource consenting, and monitoring and enforcement processes in the RMA.

Stage Two will be a more comprehensive review of the resource management system. It will build on current Government work priorities across urban development, climate change, and freshwater, and wider projects being led by various external groups. Stage Two is currently being scoped and is expected to start in 2019.

Good luck with getting agreement with both the Greens and NZ First on meaningful reform. This could take some time.

National tried to reform the RMA while in Government, but failed. Now National blames MMP, minor parties for housing crisis

A National MP has blamed the former Government’s partners for his party’s failure to stop house prices rising beyond the reach of many Kiwis.

“We did a lot in housing – we did a lot of work around the Resource Management Act (RMA). The problem with MMP is we had a partner that actually wouldn’t allow us to make the changes that we wanted to make.”

National actually did poorly in addressing the growing housing problem. This was a significant reason why they failed to retain power in 2017.

RMA changes passed into law in April 2017 after changes were made to satisfy minor partner the Māori Party, while United Future and ACT voted against.

Bridges has also blamed ACT and United Future for National’s failure to reform the RMA

David Seymour has been scathing – ‘Promise. Win. Fail. Apologise’: David Seymour rips into National’s ‘failure’ in Government

On Thursday, National Party leader Simon Bridges expressed regret at his party’s failure to reform the Resource Management Act (RMA), and said it was getting a new RMA reform bill ready.

“The reality is, we should have [reformed the RMA] in the first term,” Mr Bridges said, blaming later support partners for failing to allow changes to be passed.

“The reality is though, by second and third terms we were reliant on partners whether it was the Māori Party, whether it was Peter Dunne – they weren’t up for changes there.”

However ACT Party leader David Seymour says he’s heard similar promises before – but National has always failed to deliver.

“They promise action in Opposition, win Government, fail to do what they said they would, and then apologise after New Zealanders boot them out.

“The four stages of the National Party political cycle are: Promise. Win. Fail. Apologise.”

Mr Seymour says part of the blame of that cycle is down to National’s governance style, which he claims operates “from the left” despite the party “campaigning from the right”.

“Only ACT has been consistent on fundamental RMA reform. The next Government will need a stronger ACT to get National back on track,” he said.

Peter Dunne has explained why National failed to get the support of United Future and ACT in Peter Dunne looks at the challenges for a possible ‘blue-green’ party and the National Party’s quest to get the numbers to allow it to govern:

There is also the delicious irony of National‘s excitement at the prospect of such a party emerging occurring the same week that it blamed previous support partners, UnitedFuture and Act, for the current housing crisis because they would let it gut the Resource Management Act the way it wanted.

National’s approach then was all or nothing – I well recall their Minister telling me he was only prepared to negotiate about the RMA if I gave him an assurance in advance that we would reach an agreement. On another occasion, that same Minister told me he was unwilling to talk further because he suspected (correctly) that I was also consulting with Sir Geoffrey Palmer, the architect of the RMA, and he did not want that.

I think that minister was Nick Smith. He was probably National’s biggest problem with failing RMA reform and letting the housing problems escalate.

Yet, all the while, right up to the eleventh hour, UnitedFuture and Act were putting up separate proposals to the Government for possible changes to streamline the way the RMA operated, and to remove perceived procedural roadblocks. UnitedFuture even suggested bringing the provision of affordable housing into the objectives of the RMA but that was rejected because we would not agree to National’s planned watering down of the RMA’s principles and objectives.

Ideally with something as important as the RMA both Labour and National should work together to sort out it’s weaknesses while retaining important environmental protections.

But National, with a near majority Government, could not work out decent RMA reform with two one MP parties, and still blames them for their own failure.

The Government is trying to throw money at Maori land development, and it’s fair for National to question that approach. They can’t undo their reform blunder while in Government, but they could put petty politics aside and work with Labour on lasting RMA reform.

 

Are the key causes of housing shortages being addressed?

While the failure of KiwiBuild to live up to hype has been big news I still haven’t seen much said about the key causes of the housing shortage – the lack of available land and the time and cost and difficulty in  making land available due to the dysfunctional RMA.

Even Labour cheerleaader Simon Wilson is on the case.

But he doesn’t mention the RMA at all.

RMA ‘broken’, not fit for purpose for local government

Dave Cull, president of Local Government New Zealand and mayor of Dunedin, says that the Resource Management Act is broken, and is effectively saying that the  is not fit for purpose, or at least not fit for local governments who want to progress housing developments.

Stuff: Don’t leave smaller councils with the claw hammer

On one hand we have the Urban Development Authority (UDA), the agency that will be responsible for delivering on the Government’s ambitious KiwiBuild programme.

To build at scale, the Government is looking to give the UDA the power of compulsory acquisition to assemble large parcels of land and the ability to shortcut the onerous public consultation processes required under the Resource Management Act (RMA).

On the other hand we have non-UDA projects, which still have to go through the RMA process.

This will give Government favoured projects a major time and cost advantage.

Make no mistake, the UDA is a good thing. The answer to the housing crisis is to remove the hurdles that have prevented us from building homes.  Local Government NZ has worked closely with Government on the UDA policy to ensure it works with local government structures as seamlessly as possible.

But there is a risk that, if we stop reforms with the UDA, we could be entrenching the housing problem, not fixing it.

Here’s why: by seeking a series of RMA carve-outs for the UDA, the Government is effectively admitting that our planning system is broken, particularly when it comes to urban development.

It is an acknowledgment that the RMA is too consultative and encourages a tragedy of the anti-commons. This is where everyone gets a say in a development, not just affected parties, and as a result many worthwhile projects never get off the ground.

The RMA’s consultation requirements also vastly complicate the already fiendishly difficult matter of assembling land for urban development.

Ironically Cull’s Dunedin City Council has just notified decisions on it’s Second Generation Plan (2GP) for Dunedin, and appeals have been lodged against some decisions.

One highlights the power of everyone being able to have a say. This appeal – ENV-2018-CHC-285 – The Preservation Coalition Trust  – wants Rural Residential rezoning deleted from the 2GP if ‘any portion visible’ from most prominent roads on the Peninisula, West Harbour, North East Valley and north to Waitati. That effectively means just about all land north and east of Dunedin.

Unfortunately, early signs suggest the zeal for building reform seems to be limited to the UDA, which will focus on a handful of really big projects, the kind that only the likes of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton or Tauranga could reasonably take on.

The rest of New Zealand will have to struggle on with the RMA – a claw hammer with a cracked handle and wobbly head.

Including Cull’s Dunedin City.

If we want to tackle housing affordability across the whole country, and not just in our big cities, we need to reform our national planning legislation to enable more residential building to take place, whether it be in Gisborne or Gore.

In short, we want to see everyone equipped with gas framing nailers.  That’s the kind of exciting contest that we want  – an even playing field that results in more houses, where we all end up winning.

He could start by addressing this in his home town, but it’s probably far too late with the advanced 2GP process.

Does he want to put that aside and start again? Or is he only advocating for elsewhere?

 

 

Phil Twyford on the new Housing and Urban Development Authority

The new Housing and Urban Development Authority (HUDA) is going to have broad powers including being able to ignore existing council designations, amend or write its own by-laws and grant its own resource consent, and councils will have no veto power. “It’s going to be a tooled-up agency that can cut through the red tape” – Minister Phil Twyford.

I wouldn’t be surprised if that dismays some councils.

Also:

There will be ‘no change’ for Housing NZ tenants under the new Housing and Urban Development Authority

It is a shame that HUDA needs to be given extraordinary powers like this, other than making the Resource Management act fit for purpose.

More from and interview with Twyford on Nation yesterday:

  • Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford says the new Housing and Urban Development Authority (HUDA) will act “in partnership” with local iwi, councils and the private sector. “We’re creating a really joined-up one-stop shop that can sit alongside the council and unlock these big developments and allow us to crack into it with pace and scale.”
  • Mr Twyford said while the agency will also contain Housing New Zealand subsidiary HLC, becoming the Government’s primary provider for housing, there would be no change for HNZ tenants. “There will be no significant difference for those people. I want to reassure them that their rent, their tenancy arrangements, their houses – that’s not going to change at all.”
  • The HUDA will have broad powers, including being able to ignore existing council designations, amend or write its own by-laws and grant its own resource consent, and councils will have no veto power. “It’s going to be a tooled-up agency that can cut through the red tape,” said Mr Twyford.
  • He said land use regulation and the rules that govern development projects had been solely in the hands of councils and that was “not working”. “We have to change things, and we’re putting central government in there to work alongside councils.”
  • He said he hoped the authority will mean developments could go “from concept to building within 12 months”.
  • Mr Twyford said the HUDA will have a $100 million injection to get it started but will also have access to Kiwibuild and Housing NZ Funds, because state homes and Kiwibuild funds would be part of the projects.
  • The HUDA will also have the power of forced acquisition, where private land owners can be can be forced to sell to make way for a development – but the minister says the powers are just “in the back pocket”. “I don’t think it’s likely at all that someone’s private property or their house will be acquired for one of these projects.”
  • Mr Twyford said the cost of Kiwibuild had not been underestimated, and he would not be asking for more funds in the next budget. He said the point of the $2 billion fund was to be “recycled over and over”.
  • He said victims of the meth testing debacle would soon be compensated. “Every tenant who has come forward and has their eligibility for payment under the scheme we set up, we will get their payments [to them] before Christmas.” He said Housing New Zealand was proactively working with MSD to try and track down people eligible for compensation who haven’t yet come forward.
  • He said those who had been unfairly kicked out of homes were being prioritised on the HNZ waiting list. “People should not be living in cars. And my advice is that Housing New Zealand is doing everything it can to make sure that people who were affected in that way, that that situation is put right.”

Full interview transcript at Scoop.

Ardern: “housing for every price point, every income, every need”

In an interview on Newshub Nation Jacinda Ardern has defended Kiwibuild providing what many would see as expensive housing to people with very good incomes, and said that the Government should provide housing for just about everyone – “So for us it’s about providing housing for every price point, every income level and every need.”

That’s a remarkable statement.

Here is the whole part of the interview transcript that discussed KiwiBuild and housing.


You mention KiwiBuild — there’s been more controversy this week around the income thresholds for KiwiBuild. Have you over-promised on how affordable KiwiBuild homes actually are?

I think when you look at the context of where we’re building in the Auckland market, when you’ve got houses sitting around the million-dollar mark, and first home buyers saying that’s simply not a threshold that we can meet. What we’ve done with KiwiBuild, of course, is not about subsidising housing, but about providing more supply in the housing market where builders and developers just were not producing houses.

From memory, roughly five per cent of houses being built in that market were what you would call something adequate for a first home buyer. We’re trying to turn that around. We’re intervening in the market by building what people are looking for. When you think about that fact that, say, two teachers with five years’ experience, you know they just come under the threshold for KiwiBuild and even then those couples are struggling to find a home.

So that’s what KiwiBuild is all about. It’s rightly been popular, and I think we’ll look back on what we’re doing in the housing market and think this is something that will be a real turning point.

MBIE figures released to us early this year suggested that a first home buyer would need to earn at least $114,000 to buy a $600,000 home. The median household income is only $88,000. We’re looking at seven times the median income in order to afford a $650,000 home. That’s not considered affordable. The New Zealand initiative would say that you would need to bring that down to three times the median income to meet international affordability ratings.

Two points that I would make there. That’s the upper end of KiwiBuild, of course there are price differentials across the country, and we expect they’ll be much more affordable in different parts of the country. That’s the first point. The second point is that that demonstrates — the fact that even at 650 that’s a very big difference from the million-dollar houses that we’re seeing sold more frequently in the Auckland housing market — pointing to the unaffordability that we have right now. So we know we have an issue.

That’s the top end of what KiwiBuild is offering. There are lower price points as well for slightly smaller homes that are good starter homes and, again, they’re cheaper across the country. But it points to the problem that we have in New Zealand that that is the price point that people are having to look at in order to get into the market. We are looking at other options. We’re looking at shared equity schemes.

We are increasing the number of public and state houses available. We’ve got an agenda to build 6400 state and public houses within New Zealand as well.

So for us it’s about providing housing for every price point, every income level and every need.

Alan Johnson from the Salvation Army says KiwiBuild is one example of how Labour has become the party of middle-class welfare. What do you say to that?

I totally disagree. People still have to pay for these homes themselves. They have to muster a deposit themselves.

I think that many would argue with that. KiwiBuild has been criticised widely for months, like “Disappointment is setting in as more people realise that the scheme is really only going to benefit the rich.” – see Political Roundup: Kiwibuild is now ‘socialism for the rich’ (NZH).

The high income couple who Labour used to promote the first KiwiBuild house hand (Ardern described it as “a momentous occasion) over said it was like winning lottery – see Purchasing new KiwiBuild home ‘like winning Lotto’ (1 News).

This is just one of the things that we’re doing across housing. I’ve already mentioned state housing. We’ve brought on an extra 1200 public housing spaces. We’ve invested in housing first, which is to try and work with those who are homeless in New Zealand. We know that a home affects everything. It affects your ability to build community, to keep your kids in the same school, and so we’re looking at everyone’s income needs and everyone’s housing options to make sure that we’re providing for everyone.

But what I would say to Alan as well, is that it’s part of our psyche — the idea of home ownership and the fact that people who consider themselves to be in the middle haven’t been able to afford a home, we should want to turn that around too. I don’t apologise for that — as long as we’re also meeting the needs of other New Zealanders who might not be able to muster those deposits and that’s why we’re looking at shared equity as well.

There are almost 9000 people waiting for a state house; you mentioned state housing. 800 homeless in Auckland alone. Can you see how people would think maybe that $2 billion going to KiwiBuild could be better used elsewhere?

And again, we need to be really careful around the way that we talk about KiwiBuild. That’s, of course, a rotating fund that’s set up to ensure that we have the initial funding for the project. Of course, people are purchasing these homes, and that money goes back into the pot to rebuild additional houses. This is not a subsidy.

This is actually just the state using its large buying power and determining that there’s a gap in the market and partnering with developers to build what’s missing. It is not a subsidy scheme for buyers; it’s just plugging the gap and ensuring that we’re providing where the market has failed.

More than 296,000 people, Prime Minister, are getting an accommodation supplement because they can’t afford their housing costs. That’s 6500 more people than this time last year. Do you need to do more?

Look, absolutely. Absolutely we do. And that’s why it can’t be just about KiwiBuild. It can’t be just about state housing. It can’t be just about emergency housing places.

But one of the great issues, of course, with things like accommodation supplement – what we ultimately need to be doing is making sure that we’ve got that public housing in the first place. So that’s why we stopped the state housing sell-off under the last government. We are increasing supply. We just announced a huge amount of work that we’ll be doing in Porirua to renew and refresh 2900 state homes there. It is a huge agenda that we have.

And I hark back here to something Michael Joseph Savage first said when we first started building state houses under that Labour government. He said, ‘We don’t claim perfection, but we do claim a considerable advancement on where we have been in the past.’ And I’d say the same for us. It’s not perfect. We’ve had 12 months, but already, we’re ramping up a building programme that I think will really pay dividends and make a real difference for people who need shelter.

It was always going to take quite a bit of time to make a significant difference on housing. The National Government tried (with disappointing results) to resolve growing housing shortages and homelessness. The Labour-led Government promised a lot but struggled to show results over their first year in office.

And things aren’t going smoothly. To try to fast track KiwiBuild houses the Government has bought houses ‘off the plan’ – from developers who were already building houses.

The elephant in the room largely remains unaddressed, the Resource Management Act. Things like the constraints it puts on making land available for new housing, and the use of the RMA by NIMBYs to oppose high density housing in their neighbourhoods.

The shortage of land and the shortage of housing are major factors in pushing the prices of housing up to levels that are unaffordable for many on lower incomes who can’t save deposits and can’t afford large mortgages, even at the current low interest rates.

A typical KiwiBuild house has a price of about $650,000. That requires a deposit of at least $65,000, a substantial amount for those on low incomes. And a mortgage of $585,000 at say 4.5% (current KiwiBank rate, low deposit buyers often pay higher mortgage rates) would cost about $26,000 a year, or about $500 per week. That’s hefty enough, but if mortgage rates go up (they were more than double current rates 10-12 years ago) many people would be unable to afford to pay their mortgages.

It is proving difficult enough to build 10,000 houses a year (Labour had a target of 100,000 houses in ten years).

But suggesting that the Government should provide “housing for every price point, every income, every need” sounds like Ardern is in lala land.

RMA Bill passes 2nd reading

The Government’s contentious Resource Legislation Amendment Bill passed it’s second reading in Parliament yesterday thanks to the votes of the two Maori Party MPs.

Newshub: Resource Management Act bill passes second Parliament reading

The Resource Legislation Amendment Bill passed its second reading 61-59 with National and the Māori Party supporting it and all the other parties opposed – including Government allies ACT and United Future.

The bill was held up for months because the Government didn’t have the numbers to pass it, until Environment Minister Nick Smith negotiated a deal with the Māori Party.

At the core of the bill are changes to parts of the RMA which govern environmental and planning decisions. They’re designed to make it easier for land to be developed for housing and the minister will in some circumstances be able to override council decisions.

“The reform is critical to addressing housing supply and affordability by making it easier, faster and less costly to create new sections,” Dr Smith said after the bill had passed its second reading.

“It opens up land supply and reduces the time taken to get consents.”

It’s been widely thought that the RMA needed an overhaul but there have been concerns over retaining environmental safeguards in particular.

Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox says her party’s support at the second reading doesn’t mean it has put aside all its concerns.

But she’s confident “ongoing talks” with Dr Smith will resolve those issues.

Labour MP Meka Whaitiri slammed the Maori party support: Māori Party support RLA bill & lose credibility

The Māori Party have lost all credibility with their support for National’s unpopular Resource Legislation Amendment Bill (RLA) which will undermine local democracy, damage regional economies and do nothing to help Māori in to desperately needed housing, says Labour’s Local Government spokesperson Meka Whaitiri.

“This Bill introduces sweeping new powers to knock out GM rules in local plans and the Māori Party’s support is a blow to our local councils and regional economies.

“Here in Hawke’s Bay and our other GM free growing regions, food exporters are striving to have New Zealand placed as a global seller of high-value goods and our GM-free reputation is crucial to that.

“Attempting to pass off minor concessions over Iwi participation rights as a win just doesn’t cut it.

“As a former chief executive of Ngāti Kahungunu, our third largest iwi, I support council to Iwi partnerships; however there are at least 123 iwi and hapū who already have co-governance arrangements in existence.

“The Māori Party still claim a GE Free stance then vote for this bill.

“To say they’ll win further concessions at the committee stage is a cop-out and misleading.

“They made this deal with National back in November; if they haven’t negotiated the removal of the S360D powers by now, they never will.

“In a housing crisis disproportionately affecting Māori, the Māori Party have voted for a Bill that adds complexity to the Resource Management Act and makes it harder to get things done.

“Labour supports the current ability for councils to back their own local economies and make plan rules regarding GM,” says Meka Whaitiri.

Bill provisions include:

  • National planning standards to reduce complexity and cost
  • Streamlined planning process
  • Discretion for councils to exempt an activity from consents
  • Strengthening of requirements to manage natural hazard risks
  • New requirements for councils to free up land for housing
  • New provisions to enable stock exclusion from waterways
  • More generous compensation for land required for public works
  • Improved Māori participation arrangements

 

ACT on housing, housing and housing

David Seymour gave his first ‘state of the nation’ speech yesterday. It doesn’t seem to have attracted a lot of media attention, with most political focus on the annual party pilgrimage to Ratana.

It is all about housing and associated issues like the Resource Management Act.

Video:

Stuff: ACT leader David Seymour calls for action on housing affordability

ACT Party leader David Seymour has told the Government to “get some guts” and stop tinkering with housing policy.

Giving his “State of the Nation” speech in Auckland on Monday, Seymour said everyone knew housing had become a problem but nothing had been done.

In the past 30 years the number of homes built per capita had halved and created an asset bubble that was a risk to New Zealand’s economy, he said.

NZ Herald: David Seymour: Kiwi politicians need to have ‘guts’ to address housing affordability

New Zealand’s politicians need to get the “guts” to introduce major reform aimed at tackling housing affordability, ACT Party leader David Seymour says.

…he said ACT would boost housing supply by making it easier to build new homes and shortening approval times.

“We can’t just tinker … we need to act,” he said.

“If ACT holds the balance of power after this year’s election, we’ll be ensuring that the government accepts the housing market is dysfunctional and reforms the fundamentals.”

Speech notes: David Seymour: State of the Nation Speech

ACT’s policy summary:


The House Price Problem

ACT believes that the cost of housing is unacceptably high. Auckland has a significant housing shortage. The price of an average house in Auckland is nearly ten times the income of an average household. Internationally, three times the median income is considered ‘affordable’. The high price of houses means mortgage payments and rents are higher. Household budgets feel the pressure.

The high cost of housing is widening the gap between people who own houses, and who don’t. People who own houses have increasing wealth as house and land values increase. People who don’t are paying more in rent and their income is not keeping pace. It is getting harder for renters to save for a deposit on their house. High rents are a cause of deprivation for low-income families.

The housing shortage is placing costs on taxpayers as well. The high cost of private housing means the Government spends more on social housing through the Income Related Rent subsidy, and funds more support in Accommodation Supplements.

The Resource Management Act:

ACT believes that the major cause of the housing shortage in our cities is the RMA. Council plans and policies under the RMA determine whether enough houses will be built.

The Act gives too much power to councils to restrict development. It requires councils to provide for environmental protection and conduct consultations, but doesn’t require them to consider property rights of owners, economic growth or provide for an adequate supply of housing.

The number of new dwellings consented nationwide each year is still well below its peak of 39,000 in 1974. The Government’s Housing Accords and Special Housing areas have been a band-aid on a broken planning system but they do not address the fact that the RMA in its current form is not fit for purpose to deal with a major housing shortage in our main urban centres.

ACT’s Housing Affordability Policy

ACT believes that the shortage of housing can be filled by private developers, when local and central government get out of the way. We would change the planning law that controls development of cities, and we would give councils the funding incentives to approve more consents. We care about the social impacts of high house prices, and believe the shortage of housing is a problem that can be solved by making our planning and building laws fit for purpose.

Take Cities Out of the Resource Management Act.

ACT would rewrite the Resource Management Act, and introduce new supply-focused urban planning legislation for cities of 100,000 people or more. Urban environments, and areas at the edges of our cities should not be regulated and protected in the same ways as undeveloped natural environments.

ACT’s urban development legislation would prioritise supplying land and infrastructure, in response to demand. We would set price thresholds above which land would be automatically released for development. It would include obligations to set out future infrastructure corridors.

We would make zoning less restrictive, with fewer levels and types of zoning. We would strengthen property rights for existing owners by limiting objection rights to people who are directly affected, rather than allowing third parties to have a say.

Share GST Revenue to Build Infrastructure.

ACT would share a portion of GST revenue collected from the construction of new housing with the local council to incentivise them to approve planning of new homes.

The shared revenue would help cover the cost of infrastructure like roads, water and sewerage which councils must build to support new development. The cost of this infrastructure currently disincentivises approval of new houses and subdivisions.

We also allow councils to use more flexible funding mechanisms for infrastructure. This could include permitting special targeted rates on new developments, to pay for the new infrastructure. Councils need both more flexibility and stronger incentives to plan for more housing.

Compulsory Insurance for New Buildings.

ACT would reduce the cost of compliance for builders, and reduce the financial risk on councils, by removing council building certification, in favour of a compulsory bond or insurance over new buildings. Requiring insurance for the replacement of the building would ensure standards are upheld while reducing the time spent on council inspections and red tape.

Replacing council building certification with compulsory insurance would incentivise insurers to find the most reliable builders and best building supplies to insure. The builders’ incentive would be to get the best premiums and service, by proving they are building high-quality homes. Insurers could sign-off on building materials that are certified overseas, where councils are reluctant to today.

This is an agenda to fundamentally reform the housing market. Our great country deserves nothing less from its politicians.

David Seymour – ACT Leader

RMA bill deal

Largely hidden behind the US election National has announced today they have reached an agreement with the Maori Party that will allow a watered down Resource Legislation Amendment Bill to pass through Parliament.

Opposition parties and David Seymour have grizzled about it.


Policy agreement reached on Resource Bill

An agreement on policy issues in the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill has been reached between National and the Māori Party, which will enable the Bill to pass its second and third readings, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.

“This legislation is critical to the Government’s programme of improving New Zealand’s environmental management, increasing the supply and affordability of housing and supporting economic growth. This is the most comprehensive package of reform to the Resource Management Act since its inception 25 years ago, and it is welcome news that we have the Parliamentary support to put these 40 changes into law,” Dr Smith says.

This is the second phase of the Government’s resource management reforms, and the dozen significant provisions in the Bill include:

  • National planning standards to reduce complexity and cost
  • Streamlined planning process to improve responsiveness
  • Discretion for councils to exempt an activity from consents
  • Strengthening of requirements to manage natural hazard risks
  • New 10-day consent category for minor activities
  • New requirements for council to free up land for housing
  • New provisions to enable stock exclusion from waterways
  • New provisions requiring decommissioning plans for offshore platforms
  • More generous compensation for land required for public works
  • Better alignment with other Acts like Reserves, Conservation and EEZ
  • Collaborative planning process to encourage community-led solutions
  • Improved Maori participation arrangements

“The Māori Party has strongly advocated for improved iwi participation. This has been achieved through including the Mana Whakahono ā Rohe/Iwi Participation Arrangement in the Bill. This enables iwi and councils to enter into agreements on how iwi can be involved in resource management processes so as to ensure their perspective is heard and understood. Many councils already have these agreements through Treaty settlements or good practice. The Government supports these provisions because we want iwi involved in how natural resources are managed and because formalising the process will help achieve better outcomes with less delays and costs.”

The reforms in the Bill were first proposed in 2013 but were not able to be advanced due to the Government not being able to secure sufficient Parliamentary support. A revised Bill without the controversial changes to the purpose of the Act was introduced last December, with the support of the Māori Party for first reading but subject to further discussion on significant issues such as the iwi participation arrangements.

Submissions were heard on the Bill from April to June, and the select committee received two departmental reports – one in August and the latest just last week. Opposition parties last week refused an extension of the select committee report back date beyond 7 November, so it was reported pro-forma. The Bill will be re-referred back to the select committee by the Government tomorrow.

“The select committee has a major task ahead to work through the 500-page departmental report and refine the drafting of the Bill. The Government wants to advance the legislation as quickly as possible but this is an area of law where getting the detail right is particularly important. It may be completed this year but may flow into early next year. We will also need to consult with the Māori Party on the detailed drafting when the Bill is reported back to Parliament to ensure it is consistent with the agreed policy.

“This Bill is about improved management of our environment, it is about increasing housing supply and affordability, and it is about growing the economy and jobs. There are very significant gains for the economy and the environment from these reforms to these six major laws,” Dr Smith concluded.

“Civil rights of neighbouring property owners”

A stoush between Housing Minister Nick Smith and Auckland councillor Mike Lee illustrates problems with both the housing problems in Auckland and the hijacking of the RMA by NIMBYs.

Patrick Gower: Govt, Auckland Council at odds over housing

Housing Minister Nick Smith has attacked an Auckland Councillor, calling him a “Nimby” for blocking a housing development.

A corner in Herne Bay is a small battlefield in the war between the Government and Auckland Council over how to speed up housing supply. The Government wants 70 apartments built there, but Auckland Councillor Mike Lee is trying to stop it, and that’s got Dr Smith angry.

The Government has designated the site of the old Gables pub a “special housing area”. That allows for fast-tracked development, with between four to seven of the apartments “affordable housing”. It’s about getting more housing into inner-Auckland’s “urban intensification”.

But neighbours don’t like it, and, local councillor Mr Lee is on their side. Mr Lee wrote earlier this year, saying the development was “overriding the civil rights of neighbouring property owners”.

Lee seems to be ignoring the rights of property owners to develop their properties. If councillors oppose new housing developments because neighbours don’t like them then it’s no wonder Auckland has a major housing problem.

Dr Smith responded, saying he found Mr Lee’s position “ironic”, “odd” and “part of the problem”.

“We cannot have that sort of Nimbyism. That’s at the core of where Auckland has gone wrong. That’s why I’ve politely written back to Mr Lee and said ‘actually, you are being a hypocrite’.”

The problem of using one’s ‘rights’ to oppose what other people do with their own property is a not confined to Auckland.

In Dunedin it has not been uncommon for ‘neighbours’ – people living kilometres away – to use the RMA to oppose applications to build on properties because they don’t want the landscape to be ‘degraded’.

They have been successful in stopping the civil rights of owners to do what they want to with their properties.

And it’s about to get worse if proposed changes to the new district plan go through (objections are currently being heard).

Someone in the council has drawn lines on maps of the city on the 100 m contour line in many areas, and they are saying that if you want to build a house above this altitude you are  restricted in what you can build (size and appearance) and need to apply through the RMA to be able to build.

This is supposedly to retain the ‘character’ of the city  – so people won’t have to look at houses on hills. Despite the fact that a lot of Dunedin suburbs are already built up hills.

So in other words NIMBYs who already have houses on their properties don’t want other people to be able to build what they want on their own properties.

It’s no wonder Dunedin is stagnating – except for on the Taieri where ex councillors have been able to subdivide some of the best farmland in the area.

It’s no wonder Auckland has a housing crisis if people, especially councillors, are opposing the building of new residential properties.

And it’s no wonder the Government is getting frustrated with Auckland and with the RMA.