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National’s housing policy

Written By: - Date published: 12:06 pm, April 16th, 2021 - 30 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, housing, Judith Collins, local government, national, same old national, supercity - Tags:

National has released its housing policy and the proposals are predictable.  Free up more land, loosen up the RMA, and require Councils in high growth areas to urgently review their district plans.

Most of it is window dressing. The urgent review of District Plans is already happening thanks to the Government’s National Policy Statement on Urban Development.  The Government has been going through a major review of the RMA.  I disagree with aspects of it, particularly the proposal to loosen up rules relating to Auckland’s urban boundaries but the review is happening.

National wants to introduce a bill to get the changes made now.

If passed the bill would require Councils to immediately zone land for 30 more years of housing growth.  For Auckland Council the last prediction that I found suggested a further 313,000 dwellings could be required.

At a traditional 400 square metres a section a further 12,520 hectares of land would be required.  This is 125 square kilometers or a fifth of the size of Lake Taupo.  No pressure Auckland.

Please note the emphasis on zoning more land for housing, 30 years worth.  I get the feeling if passed this would almost inevitably result in urban sprawl.  And at a time where loss of high quality arable land is becoming a crisis this would only add to the problem.

Jamie Morton in the Herald said this:

Urban sprawl is swallowing up New Zealand’s best vege-growing land at a dramatic rate, threatening our ability to feed ourselves.

A major Government stocktake out today found that the country’s most productive land – ideal for growing food like potatoes, onions and leafy green vegetables – had become increasingly fragmented by development over the past two decades.

The Our Land 2021 report, released by the Ministry for the Environment and StatsNZ, checked the health of an often overlooked yet vitally important part of our natural estate: soil.

The quality and quantity of soil is crucial for storing water, carbon and nutrients, growing food, breaking down contaminants and hosting an abundance of species.

And it’s also critical for our economy: half of New Zealand’s export earnings come from primary industries that use half of our land and depend on good soils.

The bill is littered with language that libertarians would approve of.  Even though the bill if passed would cause radical change there will be no notification of or consultation about the plan changes and limited appeal rights.  This has a distinctly Soviet feel to it.

The most interesting feature of the policy is the proposal that Councils get paid a bounty on every house built in their area over the past five year average.  To do this National would raid the $3.8 billion set aside for Council infrastructure grants announced by the present Government.

This says to me two things:

  1. National does not trust local government to just get on and do the job of building infrastructure.
  2. The money is needed now, not after housing numbers increase.  Infrastructure needs to be built before the houses are constructed, not after.

Auckland’s target in the schedule to the bill is 13,113.  In the year ending September last year Auckland consented 15,470.  The grant based on this would be $118 million.  Auckland can expect to receive in the vicinity of $1.5 billion from the fund so under National’s scheme would have to wait for 12 years or so before getting this amount, given the above figures.

The proposals will give National the change to sound off around a few slogans.  But if, God forbid, National ever gained power and implemented these ideas they would make an already difficult situation far worse.

30 comments on “National’s housing policy ”

  1. At a traditional 400 square metres a section??

    I would like to see the source of this info.

    Sounds bizarre to me.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 1.1

      20m by 20m , thats quite large as most inner city sites are smaller, a townhouse size

    • mickysavage 1.2

      For developments on the outskirts of town it is not an unusual size. Residential single house zone anticipates 600 m sections. The estimate does not take into account the need for roads, footpaths, shops, halls etc and I think is very conservative.

  2. Gosman 2

    If you want to sort out the housing crisis you need to stream line the consenting process which means reducing the opportunities to appeal planning decisions. If you don't want to do that then you will have to accept new builds will take longer and cost more.

  3. Muttonbird 3

    The $50K to councils for every house above the current rate of building (however that is measured in a moving situation) is one of the worst pieces of proposed policy from National ever, and that is saying something.

    Councils will rip up planning and building standard requirements overnight in the chase for taxpayer cash.

    You can see the leaky, low quality slums sprouting ad hoc in a once proud and beautiful New Zealand now.

    • DukeEll 3.1

      Councils aren’t responsible for building codes, just enforcing them through the consent process.

      maybe we could make building consents a national agency rather than a council function? That would streamline it further.

      • Gosman 3.1.1

        Maybe we could make compliance with building standards a condition of getting Home insurance and pass the compliance costs on to the insurance industry.

        • ghostwhowalksnz

          They wont play that game, as the risk is unknown. We used to have private certifiers as an alternative to council doing the building code work. All shut up shop when insurers withdrew from insuring them.

          • Gosman

            All costs like this can be accounted for and passed on to the relevant people. If there is money to be made in this area then people will provide the services.

            • McFlock


            • ghostwhowalksnz

              "All costs like this can be accounted for and passed on to the relevant people. "

              and yet In Australia

              "Next Tuesday, the last insurer willing to issue professional indemnity policies free of cladding exclusions will exit Australia, leaving building certifiers and surveyors, as well as fire engineers and architects no way to renew their registration and abide by state requirements for unencumbered policies to protect them and their clients."

              The market will supply fantasy is strong in some, especially the reality challenged

              • Gosman

                The alternative is councils or the government takes the risk. Are you happy for that?

                • ghostwhowalksnz

                  Arent you 'bewildered' that private enterprise isnt the answer to everything at a price.

                  Sydney has major issues with its private certifiers as it is, parts of it are corrupt and new apartment owners have no recourse

        • DukeEll

          You mean, create a privately beneficial good out of a government market failure then allow the government to take it over as the insurance companies were making too much money as build quality went up to reduce expensive premiums?

          That's how you get fire fighter unions gosman. careful what you wish for

  4. Gosman 4

    400 square meters is enough land for at least 3 homes if not more. That would suggest the land needs is a fraction of what you have calculated. Also what is this nonsense about the loss of high quality arable land? If the land has better economic usage than housing then people will use it for that. The fact is the land is more productive being used for urban purposes than for agriculture. Noone thinks Singapore is disadvantaged by not having enough "arable" land to grow food.

    • Pat 4.1

      " Noone (sic) thinks Singapore is disadvantaged by not having enough "arable" land to grow food."

      Except Singapore itself…..90% imported and of concern.


      • Gosman 4.1.1

        Umm… did you bother reading that article you linked to? It did not state that Singapore should grow it’s own food just that it should diversify the nations from which it imports food from.

        • Pat

          You obviously only read part of it….they have specific targets to increase local food supply.

    • mickysavage 4.2

      For developments on the outskirts of town it is not an unusual size. Residential single house zone anticipates 600 m sections. The estimate does not take into account the need for roads, footpaths, shops, halls etc and I think is very conservative.

      • Gosman 4.2.1

        Then your issue is the size of properties on the fringes of urban areas need to be smaller. That is something you as a member of a Local board with an Rural-Urban boundary should be pushing for.

      • DukeEll 4.2.2

        Not many houses in towns in the UK are built on 600sqm sections. And the towns are better for it. the outskirts of town shouldn't mean suburbia and all the curtain twitching horrors that entails, it should mean a quieter life.

  5. "400 square meters is enough land for at least 3 homes if not more."…does Gossman mean 3 apartments/townhouses?

    I have no idea how MS comes up with the 'traditional' 400 square meters either…

    this from a property developers site…

    "With our section sizes shrinking, many new subdivisions are being developed on a 600 square meter plan, and should you be looking in the main centres you may even face the task of fitting to a 350-450 square metre section, leaving you with a whole lot less lawn to mow and putting the squeeze on house size. "

    "The average house size in New Zealand has reduced from 200 square meters in 2010 down to 156 square meters in 2019. This has also been the result of a boon in townhouse and retirement village developments"


    Its quite hard to make sense of all this without common terminology and established facts and figures.

    Though possibly its time we moved on from using 'soviet' as a term of abuse, then again, given the current hysteria about Russia maybe its back in vogue as negative reference.

    As if Capitalist Neo Liberal Free Market housing policy has worked a treat…

    • mickysavage 5.1

      Footpaths, halls schools are not factored in. The total size needed could be considerably bigger.

    • McFlock 5.2

      Also, (in Dunedin at least) residential zones can have limits on how much of a property can be built upon, e.g. the site coverage rules for a zone might be restricted to "40% building coverage, 70% building and impermeable surfaces".

      So a 400sqm lot (20m x 20m) would have a dwelling of 160sqm, aka 10m x 16m.

      Part of the urban sprawl is the desire to avoid a concrete jungle, with barely a tree visible.

  6. GreenBus 6

    Down here in the Naki, section sizes between 750 and 1000m3 very common for older properties. New sites are usually 600-700m3 approx. Having owned a property of 1014m3 (1/4 acre) they are too big for 1 house but would be ideal for 2. The average new build size is between 200 and 350m3. New houses are BIG. Too big IMHO. If you add area for driveways, garden etc 500m3 would be excellent. Units and Townhouse are another story.

  7. Ad 7

    "Free up more land, loosen up the RMA, and require Councils in high growth areas to urgently review their district plans."

    That's exactly what the current government is doing.

    The Auckland Plan and the RLTP are diverging not converging. Under a Labour-led Council and Labour government.

    If National wanted people to wake up to them in housing they need to address their tax instruments more:

    • 0% for companies building housing 5+ storeys or more
    • 0% Bright Line Test for apartment builders
    • 0% rates for those who agree to a 10 year rent control
    • much bigger public bounties for multi-hectare masterplanned developments

    No one would think these numpties are funded by real estate companies.

  8. millsy 8

    You can deregulate all you like, there will still not be a single cheap house built.

    Developers will not build houses for people on lower incomes. Period.

    • Ad 8.1

      They just have in Glen Eden. Several hundred in a 20+ story 2-tower development.

      Plus one of my uncles just bought into one in Manukau.

      They are there.

  9. Graeme 9

    Councils to immediately zone land for 30 more years of housing growth

    Wohoo, landbanker's paradise.

    This is a throw back to the Town and Country Planning Act days before the RMA where vast swathes of land in and around our growth towns and cities were held by developers waiting for the value to rise enough to make development sufficiently profitable. West and South Auckland in 70's were prime examples with very similar demand / supply driven housing affordability issues.

    Like everything National does to "solve" the housing supply issues this won't do a thing for affordability for those without housing. It will, just like National's SHA's, make shit loads of money for landbankers and developers.

    In Queenstown this policy would have every piece of land in Whakatipu below 500m with a slope less than 1 in 4 zoned residential within a few years, if not immediately. Then what?

    There's another side to this though. Council's could encouraged to also stay within their existing built print, or logical extension of this, meaning population growth is accommodated by intensification of existing built areas. This is already happening in most cities, but is resisted by wealthy or conservative ratepayer lobbies. Auckland could easily accomodate 30 years growth by rezoning the inner ring of suburbs and around transport nodes for high density development.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 9.1

      yes. Auckland previously had more than enough land including redevelopments inside urban areas for growth…but it was locked up. There are both big developers like Fletchers and Hugh Green group who buy 25 yrs plus ahead who can develop the land and plenty of smaller players who just hold the land. Then theres large areas already subdivided into 2 hectare blocks ? for those 'lifestyle blocks'. That makes the land usuable for denser development

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