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When the RMA goes, it will be replaced by the NBE Act, the Strategic Planning Act, and the Climate Change Adaption Act. Diana Clement finds there are sceptics that this will actually improve on the bureaucratic RMA

When the RMA goes, it will be replaced by the NBE Act, the Strategic Planning Act, and the Climate Change Adaption Act. Diana Clement finds there are sceptics that this will actually improve on the bureaucratic RMA

This article originally appeared in LawNews (ADLS) and is here with permission.


Environment minister David Parker has announced that the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) will be scrapped and replaced with three new pieces of legislation: the Natural and Built Environments Act (NBE), Strategic Planning Act and the Climate Change Adaptation Act.

Does this signal a brave new world? Drafting the perfect replacement for the RMA is a monumental task but the government has promised to do it within its current term.

Our law has evolved from a modest piece of legislation – the brainchild of former Deputy Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer – which was the envy of by the world to a behemoth bogged down in bureaucracy.

Over the years it has been amended to the point where it’s time to repeal it and start again. An exposure draft of the NBE will be released to a select committee in May.

In 2020 the independent Resource Management Review Panel chaired by retired Court of Appeal judge Tony Randerson QC considered whether the RMA should be scrapped or if amendments that had proved unworkable could be pared back into coherent legislation, says Berry Simons partner Helen Andrews, convenor of the ADLS’ Environment & Resource Management Law Committee

“The panel decided, and probably rightly, that it’s past of the point of no return, that it’s too hard to try to make those adjustments to salvage the Act itself.”

That doesn’t mean wholesale abandonment of the best bits of the RMA and starting from ground zero, says Andrews. Expect to see the more usable provisions of the existing Act appearing in similar guise in the new legislation.

That includes the RMA’s sections 5 to 8, containing the Act’s purpose, principles, matters of national importance and treaty provisions. “That’s really the engine room or the key lodestar as it has been described by the Environment Court,” she says.

In its submission the ADLS committee will focus on the wording, rather than policy because of the many varying views of the committee membership, encompassing private practice, in-house counsel, community and academic perspectives.

“Obviously we’re not there to advocate on behalf of a particular policy position. So, what we do in our submissions is comment on the workability of the proposals that have been put forward [and] how they might integrate with other legislation,” Andrews says.

The one area of unanimity, she says, is agreement that the RMA does need to be reformed. “The RMA has got too unwieldy. Too incoherent. The amendments weren’t always needed and they haven’t always been well targeted.” Even when they worked, they were amended yet again.

It’s a tall order to replace the RMA without those three new Acts piling up even higher than the existing pile of paper that comprises the current legislation, says John Tookey, professor at AUT’s School of Future Environments.

The tricky part for drafting shorter legislation will be finding the appropriate balance between the various priorities that need to be addressed by the legislation.

Although the engine room will be recognisable, inevitably with any new legislation there will be elements that will need to be tested in the courts. It’s notable that the RMA is one of the most singular pieces of legislation that encapsulates the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, Tookey says.

One of the key issues, says committee member Dr Grant Hewison, director of Grant Hewison & Associates, is that the new legislation must be clear about the role of local government in the Tiriti/Crown partnership. The three new statutes must also ensure multiple institutions can quickly and easily implement what was intended.

Housing or climate?

The RMA is often viewed as the cure for the housing crisis, yet amending the RMA didn’t fix it in the past.  Amendments didn’t work and weren’t given sufficient time to bed in, says Andrews. The lesson, however, may not have been learned.

The focus on the housing crisis in the current reform could be a real mistake, says Hewison, when what really matters is the climate crisis. “From what I can see [climate] is being treated as an add-on,” he says.

“We’re trying to address the housing crisis by reforming the RMA. It’s kind of like nonsense. You have a tax problem not a land-use problem.”

Without focusing on climate change we might be simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, Hewison says.  “Although that will bring some better outcomes at the margins, it isn’t what we need or the government actually thinks it will get out of this process.

“If the RMA isn’t going to change much in terms of its core provision, then the outcomes are not going to be too different from what we’ve got now.”

Another big issue could be the large range of stakeholders to consider within an ambitious timeframe, says Tookey. “There will be individuals who are going to view this as a direct assault on their ability to have an input into the land use in Aotearoa, New Zealand,” he says.

At the same time, says Hewison, we have a very different style of government now than in the first –past-the-post days when the RMA was first drafted. This could make it harder to push legislation through.

“The government now under MMP has a majority and can force through legislation if it wants to. You have a much wider range of stakeholders and you have a much more delicate consensus-building process.”

Under the previous coalition, reforming the RMA might have been impossible, which may have given the government confidence to make the move now.

Enforcing bureaucracy

Not all of the issues with the RMA sit in the legislation.

Councils and their staff have at times been the roadblocks to the efficient operation of the RMA. Resourcing, capacity and cultural issues need to be addressed, says Andrews. Too often, she adds, councils held tightly to ownership of their plans.

“Certainly we hear the view from the council that the council plan is the council’s plan, and it wants to retain ownership of its plan and have it written how the council wants it written.” Suggestions for improvements weren’t always well received.

One of the key issues Andrews sees in the current regime is the focus by council officers on “adverse effects”. Hence the recommendation from the Randerson report that there needs to be a change from a simple focus on adverse effects to achieving outcomes.

“Having that change spelled out in black and white could well make a difference. To ensure that it does [happen] it has to be backed up by a review of what else needs to be done to address implementation issues,” Andrews says.

“Otherwise, some council officers in particular will simply say, ‘well, yes, we’ve got all these concepts and principles that we’re familiar with. This is basically RMA 2.0 and so I can continue operating and approaching things as I was’. Whatever we can do to try and avoid that and convince them it’s  a brave new world and that approach has to change.

“If not, I can certainly say that in 10, 15, 20 years’ time people are going to be having exactly the same conversation around the NBE and why that failed to achieve the outcomes as intended.”

Tookey also sees issues from within councils. He points out that many bureaucrats working with the RMA started their careers under the Act and may well finish them under it, and may be invested in the existing system. “You have to change the cultural approach to doing business.”

Drafting the legislation isn’t the hard part, he says. And the issue is bigger than simply changing the culture in councils.

“You are going to have to spend an awful lot of time and effort re-educating folks and re rethinking what takes place. Simplifying legislation, then trusting that legalisation to a bunch of bureaucrats whose role is enforcing bureaucracy. I’m not necessarily convinced.”


This article originally appeared in LawNews (ADLS) and is here with permission.

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74 Comments

My conclusion:

if National cannot get it done, Labour cannot get it done neither.

Labour have the numbers to push something through but if they need a consensus to do it it'll likely be at least as complex at the existing RMA.

Nobody is acknowledging Entropy, Overshoot or the Limits to Growth.

This is a Systems problem, many parts of which are now predicaments (in that we left it too long fixing them when they were only problems) without good solutions, indeed perhaps without solutions at all.

Parker is therefore trying to have his cake and eat it too - trying to believe there is somehow a demarcation between human development (in here) and 'the environment' (out there). This, of course, is bollocks; it is us humans who are impacting the 'out there' by our demands of it from 'in here'.

One thing is certain - this process will be overtaken by events.

In RMA terms, relating to where it has failed as legislation to acknowledge/deal with the system issues you describe - In RMA-speak I believe this relates to cumulative effects, or the inter-connectedness of each activity/action taken. Instead, each resource consent has to be considered on its own merits, with no ability to challenge proposals on the system of ecological interactions of an area or region. Put another way, I think of it as the consideration of means with no ends - and even when the narrow 'means' of an activity were found detrimental, then there was the ability to 'trade-off' or offset such detrimental effects.

The legislation reflects our teleological/consequentialist ethical approach. Until we look to an alternative ethical approach as its basis, I don't see anything transformational on the horizon. No one has considered or articulated the fundamental ethics on which we should base the legislation.
MTCW.

How about pragmatism and progress and heres another, individual owners choice. Not veto from head in the sand and we dont want change types

The most pragmatic of all the ethical approaches is virtue ethics to my mind. It simply seeks to find the midpoint between excess and deficiency (which Aristotle called the 'golden mean'). I'd be very happy if that was the basis for all our regulation/legislation.

Kate,
I've kinda pondered what u have written. I found it difficult to understand what u are saying.... I think I've got it !

I'd say that the current RMA devolved from any kind of teleological ethics approach, into a fee gathering prescriptive nightmare, thru self interested interpretation (local bodies etc) , that has lost sight of what The RMA was about.

Your last sentence kinda resonated with with me... "articulating the fundamental ethics on which we should base the legislation."
Kinda like a founding document that gets enquired into in school.

In regards to housing, why cant people build wherever they want, guided by that set of ethical principles, without the tentacle of local bodies dictating where, how,why and what can be done...and charging lots of money for that. NZ has lots of rural land.

Commonsense ethical principles that guide the legislative process, so that the end legislation is NOT some kind of Central Planning nightmare that stymes' creative and innovative expression that might give unique outcomes to particular needs.
An example of that is the "Tiny Homes" movement. The only reason this has worked is because it was, largely, outside of the bureaucratic reach of the local bodies... They would love to control the "tiny homes " niche.
Kinda ironic that the "Tiny Homes" movement evolved all on its own, outside of the RMA and local bodies, to fill a need for affordable accomodation .... that walked lightly on the earth...( so to speak )

MTCW ( I had to look that up ) !!

You are on the right track!

A lot of what you see as the prescriptive problem is in the Building Act prescriptions and processes. People can build wherever they want now, as long as they provide their own services (i.e., roading, water, sewerage treatment and disposal, etc.). But they cannot build whatever they want due to the Building Act. Rural zoning does not exclude housing - although many parcels of rural land cannot be subdivided easily (but to my mind, as long as roading is sufficient to carry additional load, and provided the new dwelling provides it's own services, yes, restrictions should be lifted). Most Tiny Houses are thwarted by land covenants - and those are not devised/prescribed by local government, but by the owners of the land being subdivided. The obstacle to Tiny Houses on existing (i.e., city-council subdivided land) sections relates to height-to-boundary rules and connections to services - and yes, those rules (and costs) need to be relaxed and improved going forward.

As I said above, I think Aristotelian ethics is the most 'commonsense' of the three fundamental schools of ethics. But we are so ingrained in teleological thinking/worldviews, that most people don't even know that is the basis of our legislative framework on environment. If we got our ethical view right - then we wouldn't have so many problems to "fix" (which makes legislation so cumbersome and complex), because we'd have made the right decision in the first place (and in many cases that right decision would have been a 'no') such that these problems would not arise.

The question now is how to reverse the environmental degradation through legislation - and that produces the fee gathering, prescriptive nightmare you speak of.

As with many issues we face (both locally and globally) I think we have passed a tipping point and remedy may be impossible. And as pdk has taught me - triage (working with what we have) will instead become the focus of the future.

Take the Auckland Harbour bridge for example; perhaps we should be planning for no second crossing and extending the life of the current bridge another 100 years. If we did that, we'd require that heavy traffic would be banned - and we'd be looking for both transport (i.e., train/ferry) and goods citing (no warehousing on the North Shore) alternatives. Auckland (and perhaps Northland) should have a zero (heading to negative) population growth objective.

But these are conversations we aren't even having at the moment.

PS. If a virtue ethics approach (i.e., finding the midpoint between excess and deficiency) were the basis for the RMA - the first task a planner would have would be to quantify existing infrastructure capacity and set a limit on population growth/new builds in their areas based on the midpoint of what the receiving environment can handle.

Wellington with its aging underground infrastructure, reclaimed land, EQ susceptibility and narrow-winding, hill roads would be de-populating!

@powderdownkiwi ......" (in that we left it too long fixing them when they were only problems)" a bit like the Auckland Harbour Bridge / crossing that now needs urgent multi-billions infrastructure spend. ;-)

No - that is a self-justifying growth-expectation, of the very kind I refer to.

We have to get to a place, very quickly, where there are no more growth demands.

Id' say 'go well', but then......

The focus on the housing crisis in the current reform could be a real mistake, says Hewison, when what really matters is the climate crisis. “From what I can see [climate] is being treated as an add-on,” he says.

- people who are paying half their income for excessively priced housing can't afford to buy brand new electric cars... which is what's needed to reduce emissions from transport - number one emission area. That's the difference between a lawyer and an economist's thinking on this..

“We’re trying to address the housing crisis by reforming the RMA. It’s kind of like nonsense. You have a tax problem not a land-use problem.”

- Hmm, think this guy doesn't get it. The tax incentives for housing do push investment there, that's true. But land use restrictions also play a huge role. Academic work has consistently found between 30 - 55% of the price of new sections throughout Australasia can be attributed to excessive land use regulation. Aus and NZ have the tightest and second tightest land use regulation in the OECD respectfully.

National changed the density - house that could be build in each section and result, house prices jumped up - existing house as well as new houses.

Earlier a house on full section in Mangers was $600000 to $75000 and now those houses are $900000 to 1.4 million and and in Pakuranga earlier were between 850000 to million dollar and now between 1.3 million to 2 million as a result entire suburbs value has multiple and even new houses constructed are more than a million so how did changing the density of house that could be built on each section helped, may be slightly more house but house prices gave gone up.

You only need to look at the most popular cars in NZ in the moment...massive 4x4 tradie vehicles. If you want to know where the extra money goes to, you don't have to look too far. They appear to be absolutely creaming it as are the suppliers of raw materials.

And why shouldn't they when the government has printed money so that they can inflate their prices as much as they want?

Judging by the number of 30-something guys at my gym driving trucks, 4 x 4 etc (who aren't tradesmen), I think it is more a fashion statement of the times. Got your 4 x 4? Rugged, fit, outdoors type and a presence on the road.....Yawn. My 180k Honda fits in nicely at our gym. Irony is only 1 of the 4 guys who comes to mind is a homeowner.....This is the real equivalent of the avocado and latté drinker being unable (?) to afford a house.

I assume you have spoken to these 30-something good for nothing guys at your gym and not making some wild assumptions? There are plenty of 4 x 4 non-sign written company vehicles out there driven by "30-something guys" who cannot afford to buy a home in Auckland, I know of a few.

Yep-no wild assumptions. All have got a solid squat and massive clean, but 3 of them have office/white collar jobs. 1 owns the gym and uses it to cart barbells, bumper plates around.

Exactly. Enable more density by 'freeing up planning rules' almost always results in large increases in land values and hence property prices. That's why we will see another mini boom in prices once Auckland and Wellington rezone land for 6 storey apartments, as mandated by the National Policy Statement - Urban Development.
At the other end of the spectrum, excessive regulation creates the same kind of problem.

The only solution is for the government to use its capacity and powers under the Urban Development Act to build LOTS of housing. Importantly it needs to build shared equity and leasehold housing, as well as social housing. Shared equity and leasehold housing is the only way that home ownership will be possible for most low and even middle income households.
It would be nice if the government was pushed on this. Why aren't the government using it's powers under the Urban Develooment Act? Maybe they are working on plans behind closed doors?
Perhaps a good article for Jenee, she could put the question to the govt.

Government can set up separate colony in distant suburb and plan hospitals, schools, malls and public transport and by houses should not be shut holes but decent 600sqmt to 800sqmt house at decent price just like in Christchurch as many with aspiration for a decent house (not current match box houses where hard for a single family to sit at one time and enjoy in lounge, leave about inviting friends) Will opt.

No, it isn't.

Even in New Zealand, the current collection of infrastructure is unmaintainable.

Yet you advocate more?

Leasehold ... no way! Its the land that has value and so the lessor can price the lessee out of their house

If the govt is the leasor there is no problem. The horror stories we hear about are in the private sector. The govt can limit any increases in ground rent to inflation.
Or potentially have a peppercorn rent.

How many times do we have to be in denial about our drug addiction!!!

Bank created credit and Leverage is the problem... OK can we be honest..

At a basic level I think most New Zealanders would support a 'Right to Build' whereby the owner of land has the reasonable right to build upon it. What right does society have to say people can't buy a few acres in the countryside to live the good life with a few chooks and a vegetable patch. Similarly if someone wants to buy a few houses and build affordable, high density apartments in a city why should they have to jump through hoops and face zoning restictions? Our greatest error was ever putting legislation ahead of housing as a fundemental human right akin to clean drinking water or education.

Consequently I think a blank sheet approach is desperately needed. This is a country with the population of a major European city and the land area of a European country. Any constraints on land resource are of our own making.

Yes, they're of our own making.

No, it's not just an NZ thing. Think of resources (including energy) as acreage. Sunlit acreage in energy/food terms, historical sunlit acreage in fossil energy terms, spatial acreage in coffee, palm oil, fruit, nuts, veggies, rubber, timber, water, eco-system services (sink-capacities, in my terms).

Much of that life-supporting, consumption-supporting, infrastructure-supporting acreage, is overseas. Colonialism Mk2. Just as theft of future opportunities is Colonialism Mk3.

And there are NO fundamental rights without population restriction - which sort of means there are no rights, period......

Sorry mate, just not realistic. No controls and you get Houston. Staunchest defenders of the London Green Belt - the home counties Tories. Some planning is necessary to avoid grossly inefficient sprawl and provide some level of protection to existing property owners. How are you going to feel when Sinacorp sets up a battery recycling plant next to your house. Problem not so much the RMA, you'll get the same issues with whatever legislation you replace it with. Real problem is landbankers inside and outside NZ urban areas artificially inflating prices, and lack of funding for infrastructure.

Actually I really enjoyed Houston! Low cost of living, high incomes, lots of start-up companies, great dining out, entertainment (e.g. rodeo, sports, museums, theaters etc.) it'll be a city of the future.

I'd take Houston over Auckland any day.

The central urban area, at least, is quite nice. Very metropolitan and cultured.

Houston is a city of the past. Auckland is a city of the past.

Neither are even close to being maintainable, beyond fossil energy.

It's a little like comparing the relative merits of the port or starboard decks - of the Titanic.

That's not how Houston works at all. They do have rules, but they let the market set those rules via developers doing market research into what their customer homeowners want which the developers develop and register with covenants to protect. And they have a presumptive right to develop this with the council's role being to facilitate this.

And before you worry about Sinacorp, you might want to explain why it's OK for Westlake Girls to be across the road from a cement works, or for the Rosedale sewage treatment station to be surrounded by residential housing.

The UK is why we have high pricing being a commonwealth country with our legislation being influenced by their Town and Country Planning Act. The UK now has the dubious distinction of having the smallest new house size in Europe, all 73m2 of it.

And Houston now has the USA's highest city densification rate, for the simple reason, it spread more organically out in the past and now has the room to build up with the same organic unrestrictive demand, all at 4x median multiple.

If we are to be balanced Dale we should also acknowledge the significant costs, especially environmental, that have come with the Houston model.

What environmental cost?

Massive reliance on private automobile usage.

Lots of flood prone suburbia.

It's no more reliant on automobiles than say Auckland and it's less of a reliance, than a choice they prefer, and they do have PB which is sufficient to the demand. And is no more flood-prone than any city sitting in Hurricane areas.

But what you will find is that its ability to develop at 3x medium multiple has no effect on the weather. although it probably does have an effect on how much extra disposable income they have and what car they can afford.

I think you will see that the data (eg. Newman) shows that the gasoline consumption per capita is significantly higher in Houston than Auckland.

Yes that's a choice. Cars are given as High School graduation presents.

Dale... Have u come across the writings of Claude Lewenz ? https://markettowns.nz/books/
If so... what do u think of his ideas on creating village towns.? pie in the sky..? or viable ?

Yes, I have, and there are many others that have looked at this, and to a point, it's all good. Some see it as a good devolution for all, others see it has enclaves for a few and you still can get your strawberries out of season from the other side of the world.

But the general trend is saying that rather than moving everyone into highrises in the CBD and leaving the countryside empty for recreation and food production, the reverse is preferable with more local, lower rise, more self-sufficient villages etc.

Regardless, the question of the total world population needs to be addressed, however.

It's not so much displacement (real-time cost) but the requirement for upkeep.

Kunstler described suburbia as the biggest waste of resources the planet has ever seen. I'm not quite with him (fantastic sound-byte though it is) in that I see 1/4 acre and bigger as being able to partially self-support. Lifestyle blocks more so, apartments not at all. But car-dependent sprawl is in serous near-term trouble.

The biggest issue with many suburbs is their underutilization ie the amount of land that could be growing something more than a lawn. And one of the main reasons is the cost to own means both parents working.

If land and house were 3x median multiple then the land could be better utilized and/or a larger more self-supporting block could be built, as both parents should not need to work elsewhere.

There are lots of unsustainabilities including a system that makes us need to earn far more than is needed to put a roof over our heads.

Great points, Whakatiki27.

I always laugh when I hear that build-anything-anywhere argument - as I always tack on to it - except in Epsom. And then there is also the 'except in any new subdivision', and so on a so forth. And we're even having a problem these days with clean drinking water!

Your kaupapa (one rule being no rules) is from a bygone era. That is exactly the ideology on which the RMA was conceived - i.e., all activities are good-to-go as long as you avoid, remedy or mitigate negative effects on the environment. It didn't work, in case you hadn't caught up.

Well, there are a number of ways to interpret the 'build anything anywhere argument,' I'm more on the side of the presumptive right to build with few exceptions rather than the non-right to build with few exceptions.

The RMA was gamed, as you know, and there is no reason to think it won't happen again. It's a typical Command and Control style Govt. response, they think it's not working because they aren't doing enough of it, rather than it's not working because it's the wrong thing to do. All that could happen is they are going to take one wrong thing and multiply it by 3 wrong things.

I don't really know what you mean by the non-right to right to build with a few exceptions. Aside from an open space zone, that is.

It means the land release is restricted, combative, expensive, and rules unclear. It's a presumptive right NOT to build. Most of it's a mindset which is reflected in policy.

By the 'land released' - released by whom? Most land is in private ownership. If a private owner wants to sell/release land nothing in the RMA is stopping them.

Spot on. Dale is caught in his ideological bubble. Probably quite happy to do whatever he wants on his land, but also have a right to decide what his neighbour can do...

Kate... I think u might be misunderstanding the gist of what Dale is saying.
I agree with most of his views.
eg. "land released"... he is talking about the piecemeal rezoning of rural land to urban land.
This incentivises private owners to sit on their land and wait for prices to rise. ( limited supply )

Build anything anywhere ... is a metaphor for allowing the greatest flexibility ,using commonsense , to allow people to choose where they want to live, within the constraints of what they can afford.
Its not the "one rule is no rules" interpretation u are assuming.
Why cant a group of people, a community, buy some land and build a village..?
Why cant I build my off the grid house on my mates farm.? ( without paying a small fortune to a local body )
Why cant a lifestyle block be only 1000 sm. ? Why should local bodies prescribe the minimum size.?
etc etc.

This is the gist of where Dale is coming from.... in my view.

My thoughts in response.

he is talking about the piecemeal rezoning of rural land to urban land.
Any rural landowner can submit a private plan change to re-zone rural land to residential. And many have done so successfully. To counter the issue regarding private landowners sitting on land waiting for price rises (I assume you mean waiting for the city council to re-zone their land so that they can obtain that planning gain) - that would be more easily solved by a targeted rate. And after a number of years collecting greater rates from the land bankers/hoarders (if that is what you are suggesting they are doing) - the city council has far more tax collected to spend on infrastructure/connectivity improvements to the area.

Why cant a group of people, a community, buy some land and build a village..?
They can. But they have to provide the infrastructure, and that's what holds most folks back, I assume.

Why cant I build my off the grid house on my mates farm.?
Again, most rural zones provide for additional dwellings on a rural property - so that shouldn't be a problem.

Why cant a lifestyle block be only 1000 sm. ? Why should local bodies prescribe the minimum size.?
I think you are talking about rural-residential zoning rules. Minimum lot sizes are usually determined based on infrastructure (access) issues and of course, the need to provide on-site sewerage systems.

But yes, I agree with you that the cost of consenting and/or private plan changes are horrendous. And the cost of compliance for a simple urban subdivision is too. Not to mention building act compliance. It isn't in the interests of lawyers, surveyors, consultant planners and you-name-it every other tom/dick and harry specialist to make all these matters easier, such that any landowner can do it themselves. That needs fixing. But then landowners would need to accept that regulatory boundaries are fixed and you can't try and push them. Much of the expense involved is in trying to push the envelope - to get approved something that simply should not be approved. So, in many ways - landowners are their own worst enemies where such complexity is concerned.

Hopefully, if DP rules are centrally templated, some of that complexity can be spared. And landowners will just have to accept that certain aspirations are a no go.

Roelof sums up nicely what I'm saying.

The point you are missing Kate is there is NO NEED for a zone change to begin with. Rules on minimum wastewater requirements etc. yes but you don't need to pre-zone the land to achieve that.

What they do in jurisdictions that get it, is set the macro master plan (for want of a better term) for the whole state, county, ie where future arterial roads will go in the next thirty years etc. etc., environmentally sensitive lands that are protected forever, etc, and then leave the market to determine how is uses everything else going forward, ie the micro

This on paper at least means the market for possible development is almost unlimited and therefore landbanking does not work, and land can be purchased closer to its next best economic use which is the rural land price. And since what you pay for the fringe land sets the price for all land going back in, then your CBD land is cheaper also.

Christchurch did a sort of Houston where the population moved around any blockage after the earthquakes, be it, earthquake sensitive lands, or CCC to Selwyn or Wiamak Councils, ie the forced growth out could not be captured by the land bankers. This left plenty of land still to be developed closer in, or left as parks etc. at a future stage. Think of it as the main body of any army catching up with the pathfinders.

And your replies to Roelofs questions are not consistent with what happens under the present set of rules. I have been involved in private plan changes, both in NZ and overseas, and NZ has a presumptive right not to build, that is the effect of the present status quo. That's why a 400m2 section in Flatbush costs $695,000. That's why we have our supply and demand cycle running countercyclical now with people buying up to two years ahead off the plan, ie they have pulled future demand back to be on top of an already short supply, but average over that time is no extra demand, so all that has happened is they have paid more now for a demand that might not be there later.

Can I suggest you look at Evans eg https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200102/cmselect/cmtlgr/809/809m2... &https://www.amazon.com/Economics-Real-Estate-Supply-Land/dp/1405118628 and Bertaud https://www.amazon.com/Order-without-Design-Markets-Cities/dp/0262038765.

The setting of what you refer to as a macro master plan is what the new Strategic Planning Act will attempt to set in place.

In the meantime, what do you think about countering the land banking problem via targeted rates?

The new Strategic Planning Act will try to Micromanage, that's what councils do, as the article highlights.

The targeted rates idea can't work for a number of reasons.
1) It would have to apply to all equally but the market demand for land varies so it would be forcing the development of land when the market might be saying otherwise. and
2) A farmer who wanted to farm as the city grew towards him would be forced to sell or develop. If he wants it to be a farm for the next 50 years or forever, then why force him to sell.
3) If a targeted rate was imposed, what would happen is the councils and landowners would share the rewards of the restrictions ie the land would still be released in a piecemeal fashion to suit the council, so the end price to the consumer would not change. The councils will benefit from the same restrictive practices the developers do.
4) the Govt. is hopeless at picking the market, and it would look exactly as their efforts to date do, ie housing volumes, types, and prices completely out of sync with what people would choose if they had more choice.

The key to stopping landbanking is to remove the incentive for it to be purchased as a speculative investment in the first place and for the council to facilitate developers responding to market signals. This does not mean growth for growth's sake, as the amount of immigration we should have is a completely different question but whatever that is, then it needs to be catered for.

Thanks for your comments on targeted rates. Of course, I have a special interest in this topic - feeling many commentators think councils and planning is the main impediment to their aspirations to home ownership.

But, I think you fail to recognise that developers/landowners have all the control with respect to timing of land (section) release (e.g., large sub-divisions released in stages) and building-types in those subdivisions (via design guides and caveats on the land to ensure such designs). This has nothing to do with planning/planners. If you want to blame certain groups for placing restrictions and hence diminishing choice - you would find many planners equally as frustrated as you with large landowners in their area whose land has been zoned for future residential development, but nothing is happening on that land.

And the Auckland Plan was notified with far more permissive rules regarding both intensification and ownership-type arrangements than was eventually approved by the hearings panel. Landowners being the main opponents to much of those more innovative ideas.

How does a council facilitate developers to respond to market signals, as you suggest? The land is owned by private individuals and corporations, not councils.

And I don't see planners (at least the ones I'm teaching/have taught) taking up the profession for any reason other than to improve social and environmental outcomes. Most planning issues arise in response to concerns/wants from the general public - some want bike paths, some want roads - planning attempts to cater for all. This was an interesting article recently about complaints from the public about a replacement residential fence;

https://www.stuff.co.nz/taranaki-daily-news/news/124068918/fence-must-mo...

A classic planning problem - every perspective is valid. Solving these issues requires give and take on all sides.

Planners are not the enemy - in most cases vested interests/greed, patch protection and 'mean-spiritedness' are.

I had worked for some of the largest developers in NZ, plus my own private developments, and I don't fail to recognize anything. Whatever we have got we have planned for. High prices, we have planned for that. Poor quality housing, we have planned for that. Irrespective of whatever good intent or ideology people are saying they have. Those that put themselves out as being in control ie the council system, have to take responsibility for the outcome. I deal with council people every week, most are great people, just like most people actually. It's a systems failure, but some people don't recognize that and defend it.

Govt. policy and the banks sit at the head of it all, and everyone else just reacts to that. Developers have had banks put almost 100% presale requirements on them in the last 6 months, and when all developers have to do that, then that is almost the only way people can buy. It's setting up the fall guys, and surprise surprise the banks have another record year.

The link to the fencing issue is classic and easy to manage. There was some information missing that the article should have covered to know the full story. Your last sentence about Vested interest etc. is all true. But that's human nature, and it not understanding that that is the problem.

It's simple to Plan for this, this is what planners are also meant to do. Council says they have 600 encroachments they are sorting (not all will be fencing). Point out the rules to all, any one of the ones that are dangerous or are subject to legitimate complaints deal too. Make sure all nonurgent ones (like the fence before it was replaced) are told that at some stage they will need to remedy it, but if they are going to do a replacement, then they have to do it immediately under the new rules. The lady in the article either knew the rules and didn't care, or didn't know the rules. But on the assumption she didn't know of course she is aggrieved having wasted time and money and seen others with temporarily "grandfathered" in breaches. I've written and management many subdivision covenants. It's not that hard. The game is a lot easier to play if everyone knows the rules, but you still need a ref.

It would be a rhetorical question to ask if you have ever tried to develop or rezone land, so let me ask you this, why do you think rural land recently rezoned as residential land, still in its undeveloped state increases in value by up to 20x its rural land price, when in other jurisdictions it does not?

As mentioned above, our planning regime should seek to claw back/benefit from the planning gain delivered by re-zoning through targeted rates.

I always have in mind the idea of affordable housing..
Targeted rates does very little for that ... just appropriates money for council to spend.
Might well add another input cost for landbankers who are legitimately holding inventory, for future development. ( which gets passed on to the end section buyer )

Me too - which is why I think the government should be considering rent price controls.

Affordable housing/land prices in general are directly linked to our infrastructure deficit. More tax collected on undeveloped or underdeveloped land allows for infrastructure improvement to be brought forward - and hence presently 'stranded' residential or potentially residential land can be developed sooner.

But in all this discussion there seems to be a presumption that agricultural and/or open space uses should be trumped by the need for further urban development/expansion. In other words, it is a growth-seeking presumption. I think we need to consider that not all areas of NZ should be seeking this outcome.

Great article.
Yes the RMA was a model combining a number of unwieldy pieces of legislation (such as that related to town planning, soil and water etc) into a single piece of legislation. An efficient "one place go to" piece of legislation.
Now we come the full circle as it has become unwieldy with tack-ons and we will replace it with three pieces of legislation, to be later followed by another, and another . . . .

Goverments know well that the answer to all problems is more legislation.

More legislation = more better. Also think of the gains in the number of civil service employment, if nothing else it will resolve the unemployment issue.

In my view, it was case law (decisions of the Environment Court) that made it more and more complicated - and overly legalistic. Starting with the 'overall broad judgment' which negated the idea of a triple bottom line approach to interpretation of the RMA's purpose (s5). Had case law not negated that intention, I think life under the RMA would have been a whole lot more straight-forward and we wouldn't have had nearly everything needing to go to the Environment Court for a decision. Additionally, planners wouldn't have had to over-prescribe a rule for every potential action under the sun.

for me land use and our myopic view of land/housing as the only mechanism to grow wealth. We shouldnt be planting horticulture where water is not bountiful - NB swathes of avocado planting in the far north. We shouldnt be planting introduced species for carbon credit investments. Which inevitably cause surrounding ecosystem harm and pollution. And most importantly we should stop urban sprawl, and build up and not out. With the latter there are ample examples around the world where density, privacy, community thrive. Lets learn and make it our own. With our unique sense of place-making. So if the 3 new pieces of legislation can assist us to achieve these things. Lets go for it. And remove the burden from local Councils; just as water reform is set to do.

Then we need to work on mindset and behaviour change through education of our population.

Member for 5 months 1 week, and a comment like that.

Sounds like a Labour Party hustler to me.

Whatever, building up is ignorant. What it ignores is the energy and resources those stacks of artificial lives require as inputs. Ask who it is that the land was feeding, and whether it can feed more, whether they're stacked or not? Gotta ask the right question to get any chance of a right answer.

In my opinion RMA reform needs to be paired with local government reform. Having 60+ District Council's and almost as many District Plans in a country the size of New Zealand is madness. Having a nationally consistent policy framework that is applied through all levels of government is important to address the inefficiencies we currently face. Otherwise we'll just end up with a shiny new higher order document that is still being beaten into a thousand different shapes by local government and no better off than where we are now.

The Building Act being interpreted 60+ different ways...

But come on, Wairarapa has 3 different councils, all with their own "unique" mandates, which is just so "necessary".

Dead right, ridiculously inefficient, time to sweep some of them up together. In fact combine the Regional Councils with the councils they cover and replace the local councils with smaller boards.

https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2021/03/housing-crisis-financial...

Mr Robertson is screwed as hard for him and his boss to pass on the buck and the only way for him to avoid controlling the ponzi as ii his interest is to blame just Suppy as mentioned even in financial time, which again may be a part of lobbying to distract government to tackle speculating demand as the reason for $1250 per day rise in house price - earn high profile weekly salary or for some family income per week in a day andvtgat too tax free.

Mr Robertson just like by introducing LVR, you are trying similary should simaltenously introduced DTI and remove Interest Only Loan and just like LVR can target so called investors and just how you all acted earlier, should act Overnight as rising house price by $1250 per day is an emergency as you have already accepted the damage speculative demand is doing.

Financial time is also wrong if central bank can assist to lift the asset prices, it can also act to control the price. Even if cannot act fully can act and bring policy to tame but yes need support of politicians to impliment Policies like DTI and removal of interest only borrowing which all speculators go for.

So jointly - Government and RBNZ can sit together and address the every growing house price now on a daily basis BUT does anyone of them intent.

Mr Robertson, you are responsible for this rise in house price in February as you gave window opportunity to buy before 1st March so all rushed to buy before the deadline.

Now think no further and without giving window opportunity and delaying impliment DTI and as suggested by you also Temove Interest Only Borrowing speciall for speculators.

Enough on waiting for advice or hiding behind corina virus AND time to act NOW.

Turning one act into three acts will never make life simpler, its an oxymoron. The government is full of academics who have never experienced real work or run a business. Yes they are very good at borrowing money so we the taxpayer front the cost. What has this government achieved in its now fourth year.????

Wrong. There is a lack of strategic planning under current arrangements. The new suites of legislation will provide a much more comprehensive opportunity to determine how urban areas are developed.

I cant understand why they would not take up Nationals offer of a cross party suspension of the RMA in respect of releasing land for domestic dwellings. I can think of very little downside apart from very foolish pride and ego issues. The advantages are:-
1 National have had the experience of doing apparently successfully this so why would you not want to share in this experience and learn from practical experience the aspects that would have relevance to the proposed law changes.
2 It is an opportunity to practically and in a non partizan manner try out different ideas that may be relevant to the law change. The alternative is to just dream up new laws without any real understanding how they may work out in practice.
3 If labour continue paddling there own boat it looks highly unlikely that they will produce anything that will produce any new houses before the next election. National will continue to beat them round the head and ears with it and it seems highly likely to me that it will be of considerable political advantage in the next election. On the other hand the bipartisan approach will completely disarm National in this regard. Successes and failures will be shared equally and eliminate any political consequences.
4 A bipartisan approach must draw in the broadest range of knowledge and result in the best legislation that has the highest chance of succeeding and providing stability.
5 The whole property ponzie thing is an issue that I think every body realizes is a crazy risk to our economy and people (even the banks ANZ). The trouble is that neither party is prepared to risk the political fall out of tackling it alone. Here is a safe opportunity to fix the problem once and for all.

Investors and FHBs should read carefully and understand the underlying philosophy of those who are directly involved in writing the new RMA. It is a clear signal in the further tightening of housing supply.

Buyers should act now to capture the supply squeeze and reap the additional gains when the new RMA and its effects eventuate.

Act now, time is the essence.

Expert in Spruiking?