Bernard Hickey welcomes Nick Smith's RMA reforms aimed at stripping the NIMBYs and BANANAs of their magical power to make housing unaffordable

Bernard Hickey welcomes Nick Smith's RMA reforms aimed at stripping the NIMBYs and BANANAs of their magical power to make housing unaffordable
'Sir' N Smith, fighting the Knights of Ni

By Bernard Hickey

I had the joy over the holidays of watching 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' for the umpteenth time.

There are so many resonant and hilarious moments in the film, but none more so this time than the 'Knights who say Ni!'.

The Knights who say Ni! are a forest dwelling tribe who are famously feared for saying 'Ni!' to stop travellers in their tracks.

They demand sacrifices to allow people to pass and in the film demand Arthur buys them a shrubbery. They are exceptionally good as chanting Ni! and the mere sound of the word strikes fear into all who hear it.

The Knights appear as mythical and mysterious creatures with their own customs and language.

I laughed my head off because I have known many Knights who say Ni! They are the people who always say No.

They are the ones who know exactly how to make submissions under the Resource Management Act to stop something happening.

They are the council officials who stop you from building a deck or demand an outrageous fee to build a basement.

They are the lawyers, council officials and consultants who know how to use the RMA to string out the process, to force changes in projects and to use their own 'language' to frighten others into submission.

The modern day Knights who say Ni! are the NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard) and BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything) who have used the RMA and the innumerable plans and plan changes to stop things happening anywhere near them, or to force any development into such a box that it benefits the neighbours more than the new occupants.

The RMA Knights who say No have been a shadowy tribe until now and it's been hard to pin much damage to the economy on them.

After all, land prices have doubled and trebled in the biggest cities and the NIMBYs and BANANAs have profited royally by simply saying No to new developments that would add to housing supply.

They're not complaining.

Now the sky-rocketing housing costs are hitting the Government through higher accommodation supplements and the economy more broadly through higher interest rates than would otherwise be needed.

So now Housing and Environment Minister Nick Smith has the NIMBY and BANANAs squarely in his sights and has some ammunition to argue that 25 years of Knights saying No in the forest of the RMA have been extremely damaging.

This week he cited a Motu study of Auckland developments to show RMA rules, delays and uncertainties added NZ$30 billion to the cost of building and reduced new housing stock by 40,000 over the last decade.

His speech in Nelson proposing a 10-point rewrite of the RMA cited numerous examples where RMA madness was stopping property owners up and down the country from developing their properties.

There are now 80,000 pages of RMA rules from 78 councils that would reach 10 metres high if stacked on top of each other from 78 councils.

There are now 50 different definitions of how to measure the height of a building.

Smith gave several examples, including:

1. How a 29 hectare block of land in Flat Bush that had risen in value from NZ$890,000 to NZ$112 million in just over a decade simply because it was just inside Auckland's Metropolitan Urban Limit.

2. How a medical centre in Nelson that had to spend NZ$57,000 on fees and consultants simply to get approval for seven new bike stands costing NZ$35 each.

3. How an elderly couple planning a new house near Nelson had their plans rejected because their living area did not face the street.

4. How Bob Jones had to consult with 13 iwi and pay NZ$4,500 for a resource consent to replace a ground floor window.

5. How a primary school in Nelson had to spend NZ$100,000 on consenting to get re-designated as a secondary school even though the buildings and grounds weren't changing.

6. How neighbours of new sub-divisions have used the RMA to block or delay development to preserve their rural views, which are protected as an amenity under the RMA.

Motu estimated the cost of regulations in a sub-division at up to NZ$60,000 per house and up to NZ$110,000 per apartment.

Restrictions around ceiling heights, the need for balconies, view shaft restrictions were the culprits. Smith's plans for RMA reforms are rightly focused on improving housing supply and affordability.

They are also rightly focused on stripping away the magical powers and mystique of the NIMBY Knights who say No! and who damage both the economy broadly and a younger generation locked out of the housing market.


This article first appeared in the Herald on Sunday. It is here with permission.

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Having been a multiple victim of RMA stupidity, I welcome your plans Nick.
On the flip side I wonder - where are the no-longer-needed Council "Ni" officers going to find employment. The prospects are not good for those whose main skill-set is pure obstruction.
These people are simply counter-productive - when our nation needs more productivity from those with productive plans.
All the best Nick

Oh, that's very easy.

  • Get Mike Greer to accelerate his plans to clone Concision to AKL by diverting all AKL consent fees to his company (or, indeed, any other that shows the same promise)  by Central Gubmint Executive Order.
  • Staff it with aforesaid planners.

Win, win, win.

  • Economic deadweight converts to productive members of building industry
  • Unit costs of builds go down as multi-proof, factory-produced componentry sweeps the land
  • Prospective FHB's, builders, developers do not have to face the obstructiveness of rule-bound poobahs (motto - Because We Can) no' mo'
  • Poobah funding instantly dries up, precipating the release of aforeasid Drones to a Worker Bee labour pool.

What's not to like?
For an extra frisson, get IRD to tax away all proceeds of land-banking which exceed CPI rates, via an insert of IRD scrutiny upon land title ownership changes.  Proceeds to be shared amongst deserving FHB's.  'Deserving' to be decided by FB Likes.

"What's not to like?"
Perfect. I love it! All of it.

Wow. Those examples are pretty damning. $57,000 to install SEVEN bike stands? Resource consent and iwi consultation to replace a friggin window? WTF is wrong with people, what ever happened to common sense!

most people want stuff, but aren't willing to pay for it.

When you vote in stupidity, do not expect a little common sense to prevail.
This is not just a New Zealand phenomenon. But we have taken it to explosive levels.
It has been copied, sanctified and promoted to all over-leveraged levels of Local and Central Governance.
The end is NI.

Having a valuable view preserved was one of the foundation principles of RMA

Thank goodness for the proposed RMA changes, these people are totally out of control, and worse, they don't even realise how out of control and damaging to the broader economy they are.

Gold star, Bernard, entertainingly reported.
Question: is it the RMA or is it "plannerism"?
For example, in the UK,  the Brighton football club shifted its ground a few years ago to a brand new site at the edge of the city. Brighton City Council was very enthusisatic, very supportive but the whole project was delayed for two years by the neighbouring Lewes District Council. One small corner of the car park actually sat inside Lewes District which gave the notoriously anti-change Lewes Distrct Council standing and the ability to appeal and obstruct.
If this sounds a bit disturbingly familiar it should. While the UK doesn't have an RMA it does have the Town and Country Planning Act. We either used that act or something very similar until the RMA came along. If you pull a district plan to pieces very few of the rules can be traced back directly to the provisions of the RMA. But they do look a  lot like our pre-1991 Town Plans. 
So whereas the RMA legislation is permissive by default our district plans are restrictive - and, not surprisingly, the restrictions and permissions are defined and controlled by planners.

And while we're musing on fictional stories, did you hear the one about the poor sap who actually believed he'd get a cheaper house just because development and building compliance costs halved?
Informed debate on reforms is good, selling the reforms to uninformed punters as the yellow brick road to lower house prices is just cruel and abhorrent.

The problems of the RMA have been well known...and National are now in their seventh year of Govt, why didn't they introduce these reforms sooner?