An uneasy truce between the Government and Auckland Council has lasted less than a week with Auckland Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse saying the accord announced last Friday to build more houses in Auckland is now "definitely in danger".
The Government yesterday rushed legislation into Parliament to enable the Auckland accord and future accords yet to be struck with other councils to go ahead. However, Mayor Len Brown was quick to say that there were clauses in the bill that appeared "to be inconsistent with the Auckland Housing Accord”. He reiterated that the Auckland Council had not yet agreed to the accord as it has to be approved by a meeting of the full council.
And Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse appeared to turn up the temperature this morning, when she appeared on Radio New Zealand and said that the legislation "seems to go back to the ‘just release the urban limits around Auckland and lets plonk houses in paddocks’ which is definitely not going to work”.
She said she was concerned about apparent differences between what was in the legislation and what the council was proposing to agree to with the accord.
“We are [concerned] and I guess that puts the signing of the accord at risk. The legislation that’s been passed certainly doesn’t follow through with much of what was negotiated through the accord and that is a concern.”
She aid the council was "absolutely committed” to getting affordable homes in Auckland.
“The Government and the council are certainly not at odds about the fact that housing is a huge issue for Aucklanders.
“The concern we’ve got is it is not just about plonking houses in paddocks out on the edges of Auckland to bring house prices down. There are a whole lot more subtleties."
Hulse said issues such as the cost of building materials, the speed at which houses can be built and developing housing in a far more imaginative way than it has been before, had to be tackled..
“We agree with the Government that more houses are needed. However, simply producing more product, if you will, is not going to bring house prices down. We need to deal with all the other issues as well and while council has got some of the ability to control that with the way we look at planning and we are dealing to the complexities and the cost of planning.”
Hulse said the Auckland Council was tackling all the issues through its proposed Unitary Plan.
“The Government needs to look at the levers they hold, which is about, maybe, some support for first home buyers. Maybe capital gains tax…”
One of the key points in the new legislation the Government is proposing is that it would allow local councils to be over-ridden. The Government would be able to, if an accord was not reached, go in and designate special housing areas for development and issue housing consents itself.
Hulse said this aspect was definitely bothersome.
“We are extremely concerned and it is not just Auckland that is concerned. The whole of New Zealand is concerned.”
She said she had been going to meetings every night in the last 11 weeks on the unitary plan and the overwhelming message was that local communities should have a say on local planning.
“The idea that Wellington will reach over the top, not just of local communities but of Auckland and start doing planning from Wellington would be abhorrent to us.”
Hulse said the council couldn't "quite understand why" the Government was looking to possibly take away authority.
"After going through this long and extensive Unitary Plan process we’ve got a plan that by the time it is notified will certainly have quite a lot of integrity. We want the Government to actually work with the unitary plan process and the community of Auckland and say look, we all want housing to happen and we want housing to happen fast but let’s have it happen in a way that works for Aucklanders
“The concern is that the legislation kind of misses that point. So, from my perspective it is back round the table, let’s sort that legislation out and then we will consider signing that housing accord.
“Without the legislation re-aligned I think the Housing Accord is definitely in danger.”