By Bernard Hickey
The Government has followed up its criticism of Auckland's Unitary Plan with a call for ratepayers to push their council to open up more land for new housing for the greater good of New Zealand's economy.
Finance Minister Bill English, Housing Minister Nick Smith and Environment Amy Adams said Aucklanders needed to take into account the effects of limiting land supply before protesting about more development in their suburbs or in the paddocks next door.
Their comments follow the strong criticism by Adams in a submission on the Auckland Unitary Plan saying it was too complex, costly and restrictive to allow the building of enough homes to cope an increase in Auckland's population to 2 million by 2031. The Unitary Plan's original push for more intensive residential developments near the centre of the city was watered down after protests by local property owners concerned about their views being obscured. See more on Adams' submission here.
Adams told reporters before National's caucus meeting in Parliament that the Unitary plan had failed to meet its own objectives for housing supply over the long term, with estimates for the number of houses to be built being half the forecast demand.
"We don't think the plan goes far enough to meet its own objectives," Adams said.
"It's up to communities to hold their councils to account if they keep that supply of land short," she said when asked if the concerns of NIMBY home owners had been too dominant in the debate over the Unitary Plan.
"I'd say to Auckland that if it wants have enough land coming onto the market to address the largest part of the housing supply issue, they need to have a very long hard conversation as a community with their council about how they're going to provide for that in the future," she said.
"It's no good to say no to everything. You can't complain about more development and more growth and then also complain about high house prices. The reality is if we want to bring down the cost of housing, we have to bring forward the availability of land to keep those prices low," she said.
"That's not going happen just by wishing. Somewhere along the line those decisions have to be made in a planning process."
Smith said he was happy with the Auckland Council's short to medium term progress in increasing the number and speed of consenting, particularly around the Special Housing Areas set up in conjunction with the Government.
He said the Unitary Plan was focused on the future after the completion of the Special Housing Areas.
"I've got great confidence in the board that is hearing submissions on the Unitary Plan. It's absolutely essential for Auckland's housing affordability long term that those unitary plan issues are solved," he said.
He rejected a call from Labour Housing spokesman Phil Twyford (see parliamentary question above) for a National Policy Statement under the Resource Management Act to force Auckland to open up land supply.
Smith said such a statement was only possible if the Government was successful in reforming the RMA and section 2 in particular, which would reduce the protection of the environment as the prime consideration agove economic development.
Asked later in Parliament by Twyford how long it would take for house prices to return to historic average multiples to incomes and rents, Smith later told Parliament the multiple of house prices to incomes had deteriorated by 24% from 4.8 to 6.3 between 2000 and 2008 under Labour, but had improved by 15% to 5.5 under National.
He said it would take another 12 years to 'reverse the damage' done to the housing multiple during the 2000 to 2008.
'More houses in paddocks'
English said the Govenrment would keep working with councils to open up land supply.
"We've gone about as far and as fast as we can without actually taking off them the job of approving sub-divisions and building consents," English said.
"The council has an increasing understanding that there are more people queueing up for houses and they need to allow more land for development and they need to allow more houses to be built at reasonable cost," he said.
English said Auckland's NIMBY home owners had to consider the greater good.
"Part of the argument here is to make sure people understand the bigger picture -- what's good for New Zealand and the economy," English said.
"It may mean that if they live in a house with a view over some green paddocks that actually we've got to build some houses on those paddocks."
The ministers' comments follow the release by the New Zealand Initiative of a report on compact development.
The Property Council said it fully supported Adams' submission to the Auckland Council on the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan (PAUP).
"PAUP, as it stands, requires developers to provide affordable housing, leading to more risky and costly projects, stalling developments altogether," Townsend said.
"The Plan also fails to clarify whether Auckland Council has up-zoned sufficiently to enable dense development as the Plan envisages. There is also the concern that the PAUP does not provide sufficient land for business developments which will have a direct impact on communities," he said.
"The Minister’s criticisms are a timely reminder for the PAUP to be sufficiently amended to allow for a dense, desirable and economically viable Auckland."
(Updated with Property Council comments)