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:
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.