Local authorities oppose moves to introduce an 'objections' process against council-imposed development contributions

Local authorities oppose moves to introduce an 'objections' process against council-imposed development contributions

By David Hargreaves

A new 'quasi-judicial' process involving objections to development contributions imposed by local councils and overseen by new 'commissioners' is a "disproportionate response to an undemonstrated need", according to Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ), the body that represents all 78 of the country's local authorities.

In its submission on the new Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill (No 3), LGNZ recommends that the objection process as currently contemplated is removed.

LGNZ is also recommending that the current definition of 'community infrastructure', including such things as libraries, swimming pools and community sports centres be retained. The new bill proposes narrowing that definition.

Separately, the country's biggest local authority, the Auckland Council's already warned that the city's homeowners face additional rate hikes of a cumulative 8.5% within the next eight years if the proposed Government changes to the development contributions proceed as planned. The council also warns that the same Government measures could push up the city's debt by $480 million within the same period and it says the planned new 'objections' process could cost the city up to $4 million a year.

Development contributions are charges levied by local authorities on developers to go toward the costs of infrastructure that may be required to service those developments.

But it is fair to say the contributions have become extremely unpopular.

The Government took aim at the development charges last year, with Housing Minister Nick Smith and then Local Government Minister Chris Tremain (replaced this year by Paula Bennett) saying they were going to "narrow the charges councils can put on new sections, provide an independent objections process and encourage direct provision of necessary infrastructure to get costs down".

Development contributions had trebled nationally over the past decade and had gone up more than any other component cost of a new house, the two said.

The Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill (No 3), which includes the changes to the development contribution regime has had its first reading in the House and is now back before select committee with a report back to Parliament due on May 12. 

In the meantime over 100 public submissions have been received. As well as the LGNZ many local authorities have individually made submissions, opposing various parts of the new proposals.

On the other side of the fence, many big business interests generally supportive of the new proposals have also filed submissions. And these include Business New Zealand, Property Council New Zealand, Federated Farmers, the Law Society, Auckland International Airport, Carter Holt Harvey, Foodstuffs, Progressive Enterprises, Kiwi Income Property Trust, Westfield and Todd Property.

And while the local authorities want to push back on the objections processes, many of the big business submitters want to see it go further. In particular, some submitters want changes to the current proposals that would see local authorities able to bill parties that object to development contributions for the objections process.

In its submission LGNZ said it opposed replacing the current definition of community infrastructure, with a new narrower definition.

"Previously this included a wider range of public amenities, such as libraries, swimming pools and recreational facilities," the submission said.

"These should not be excluded because they are causally related to development in the same way as elements of network infrastructure. There are also complex transition issues given that many councils will have commissioned work on community infrastructure on the basis of a revenue stream funded by development contributions."

LGNZ cited the example of the Tauranga City Council, for which it said that the change in definition would transfer $9.3 million of existing debt from future development contribution funding to rates funding as well as a future interest cost of $8.1 million, bringing the full cost to be met by existing ratepayers to $17.4 million.

"The council also notes that the impact on housing affordability would be a reduction of only $750.00 for a new three or four bedroom house.

"Limiting community infrastructure to residential developments is also problematic as commercial and industrial development can and does, through increasingly concentrated daytime population, generate demand for community facilities in the same way that such developments have a causal relationship with network infrastructure."

LGNZ recommended that the proposal to narrow the definition of community infrastructure and exclude non-residential development not proceed.

"However, should the amendment go ahead we recommend that a transition provision is included to allow for the continued collection of development contributions for community infrastructure where this is specified under existing policies."

On the objections process, LGNZ said it opposed prescribing a new, detailed, quasi-judicial objections process overseen by a separate category of commissioners "as a disproportionate response to an undemonstrated need; the potential for which in any event is reduced by other DC [development contribution] related provisions of the Bill".

"LGNZ notes that if an applicant is able to prove that any of the three grounds for making an objection in section 199D of the Bill exist the development contribution would be reduced automatically.

"LGNZ is concerned that this measure fails to recognise that DC policies are only workable where individual developments are grouped together into different categories or types of land uses for different geographic parts of a district. A degree of ‘averaging’ is necessary given the difficulty of calculating the exact impact of each development and the issue of cumulative effects.

"A further problem is that the objection process may well introduce a risk-averse approach with councils backing away from providing growth related infrastructure, especially lead infrastructure, because of the uncertainty with the recovery of development contributions and a low appetite from the rate payer to fund a share of genuine growth related infrastructure.

"Should this occur new residential development will slow, as councils will be cautious about taking on additional debt if there is no guarantee that it can be repaid. Any slow down in the provision of infrastructure development is also likely to affect the supply of new houses and put pressure on prices."

Property Council New Zealand, which represents about 550 organisations with around $24 billion invested in property, is backing the moves outlined in the bill.

However, in its submission it said strongly opposed the current proposal that would see local authorities able to charge those who lodge objections to development contributions for the cost of the objections process.

"The legislation should encourage territorial authorities to establish robust policies and procedures," its submission said.

"These provisions do not act to send these signals – as they do not sufficiently deter territorial authorities from going through the objections process, as there is no risk for them being liable for costs.

"Deterrence, and encouraging sound territorial authority policies and decisions, is a key reason for having an objections process. It is also inequitable that a territorial authority may have acted illegally but not suffer consequences from doing so.

"In order to send the right deterrence signals, costs should be recoverable by the party who is successful in the objections process. This is in accordance with normal court procedures, and would still act to deter spurious claims, whilst incentivising territorial authorities to ensure their development contributions charges are legal."

The property council also raised the possibility of objectors being able to take matters further than they can at the moment.

"At present the only possible legal remedy available to developers who disagree with territorial authority decisions is judicial review through the High Court.

"The costs of these proceedings is prohibitive, and many potential appellants can’t afford to go through this process.

"This situation is inequitable – as evidenced by recent High Court decisions in favour of developers – as there is no incentive for territorial authorities to efficiently deliver infrastructure and make well founded decisions.

"Members’ experience is that this can result in early delivery of capacity, often in the wrong location and not linked to demand. Territorial authorities seek to then protect these investments, making it difficult to progress more economic developments. “Gold-plating” of infrastructure also takes place.

"Infrastructure is also often funded from development contributions when it actually should be phased over time and separately funded. This is wasteful, inefficient and inequitable.

"There needs to be a strong impetus on territorial authorities to stick to the law and levy appropriate levels of charges. In this respect, territorial authorities need to be held accountable for their actions. Given this context, Property Council strongly supports the introduction of an objections process as well as retaining the ability to seek judicial review. We would also advocate for an option to appeal decisions to the environment court to ensure a proper system of checks and balances to prevent misuse of power."

Meanwhile, the Law Society, in its submission, casts doubt on the wisdom of the current proposals for establishment of separate commissioners to hear objections against development contributions.

"These new Commissioners are required to act, so it seems to the Law Society, in an adjudicative capacity," its submission said.

"An important point of principle arises in relation to these new decisions makers.

"Their creation resembles the creation of a new tribunal. New Zealand already has many tribunals.

"The long and unsatisfactory nature of the efforts to reform tribunals in New Zealand is set out in the Law Commission’s 2008 Study Paper on Tribunal Reform. NZLC Study Paper 20 contains an analysis of what is wrong and found that reform is overdue.

"In the Law Society’s view, it may be preferable to use an existing tribunal or court rather than create a new one. The Environment Court was considered but rejected, as is made clear in the papers accompanying the Bill.

"The decisions made in this jurisdiction will have economic significance and it is desirable that a system of jurisprudence be built up over time to make matters more predictable.

"The reasons why Development Contribution Commissioners were preferred to the Environment Court are set out in the Regulatory Impact Statement – Better Local Government: Improving Development Contributions (at p25).

"There it is suggested that 'should more than five appeals make it to hearing each year the costs for all parties would be likely to exceed $1 million'.

"No background as to how that figure was arrived at is provided. It is likely the figure was based on contested Resource Management Act cases, rather than this new, much more limited jurisdiction: see new clause 199D and the proposed new Schedule 13A (clause 53 and Schedule 7).

"Nor is it clear why Commissioners will cost less than the Environment Court. Decisions by an Environment Court Judge will build up a body of precedent that should make the outcome of cases more predictable than decisions of Commissioners, thus reducing the scope for contested cases. The Law Society submits this aspect of the policy should be reconsidered." 

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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Finally we get  the right to object to abuse by Local Councils , this is not a moment too soon .
The Local Authorities have unbridled power to set these fees at any quantum they choose and have been rorting the system for too long .
The old Waitakere and North Shore City were the worst culprits
Take Kyle Rd , off Schnapper Rock . Huge fees were rorted from developers  when Greenhithe was opened up to widen and upgrade Kyle road , but the road remains a dangerous narrow steep street with no pedestrian pavement .
Where did the DC levies raised for this go ?
Into the genreal funds that ran the City .
In Auckland bureacratic red tape and arbitrary fees bearing no relation to actual costs , can add $100k to the cost of a section .
Its little  wonder land is so expensive in Auckland

Before the fur flies a quick reminder of the four kinds of charge councils levy when consenting subdivisions:
1. Consent processing charges
2. Engineering conditions: the requirement to form streets, footpaths, lay pipes etc within the subdivision
3.Financial contributions: levied to mitigate the immediate effects of a subdivision but outside its boundaries. Almost certainly what boatman is referring to above.
4. Development contributions: levied under the LGA these contribute to the capital requirements for new infrastructure required to support population growth
 
The first three all come under the RMA and can all (presumably) be contested in the Environment Court.
The DC unit growth charges can be submitted on as part of the LTP/Annual Plan process but not their specific application to a specific development. The new process this post refers to only covers DC's not the other three.
 
BTW if a financial contribution is not used for the allocated purpose within about five years developers can ask for it to be returned to them. My guess is that the developers don't go around the purchasers of the sections and give them their refund.
 

"additional rate hikes of a cumulative 8.5% within the next eight years"
So less than inflation?  Decreasing rates in real terms? Those poor things...
Auckland rates are low compared to the rates paid by most smaller cities and towns. They should be paying higher rates, a lot higher.  Its a sort of land tax.  Unless you are being productive with your land, at a minimum renting it out, then it should be expensive to sit on land doing nothing. 

"additional" - that's on top of the rates rises already projected in the Ten Year Plan

additional 8% over 8 years is still next to nothing. 

  • on a 500k auckland property you are paying $2k rates.  Or 0.4%.
  • on a 150k property in any small town you still pay $2k or more in rates. Or 1.3%, almost 4 times more.
  • Ecomomies of scale make auckland rates very low compared to other cities
  • I spew at news items showing aucklanders complaining about minor rate increases.
  • Aucklands demand for roads and supply of other council funded facilities far exceeds those of other towns. 
  • Conclusion: Get over it, increase rates, anything up to 1% capital of property is fair (i.e a 200-300% increase!), and slash development contributions so people can build new property.

The disgraceful thing is that the only comprehensive study on "The Costs of Sprawl" versus containment, that has ever been done, found that the added cost (of infrastructure for sprawl relative to the cost in contained scenarios) came to around $50 per household per year. 
If there is any morality in society at all, what should be the answer to "is it worth all paying another $50 per year so young people can get decent houses for $250,000 instead of $500,000+"?
The rates blowouts we are facing in this country are nothing to do with "too much sprawl" at all, and the amounts being gouged in levies are merely new revenue sources "made up on the hop" by Councils and bearing no relationship at all to the present value of actual infrastructure requirements due to growth; let alone the present value of those requirements net of future rates revenue. 
 

http://thecostofsprawl.com/
?
or,
http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2013/10/28/hidden_costs_of_sprawl_will_c...
"We’ve known about the environmental effects for decades, we’ve known about the health impacts for 10, 20 years,” said Thompson. “Now we’re learning that the financial costs of sprawl are going to be staggering and we’re leaving a major deficit to our children and grandchildren.”
?
yet you seem to think its only $50? a rather large difference by the look of it.
Can I see your URL on these costs please?
regards

Indeed, proper academic quality reasearch of course....taking all factors into consideration.
regards

proper academic quality reasearch of course...
Ahhh...  now I feel safe and secure , in the knowledge that academic research will be our saviour...                
lets make sure it is  pear reviewed...       :)

In that case the developer has paid for the infrastructure but their are no schools or hospitals and no increase use of existing infrastructures outside the development?

Yet developers dont manage such stuff on the scale involved and actually tend to be clueless on it. ie its a specialist area. I used to do it and frankly it was a never ending bunfight over no one  believeing it costs this much.
regards
 
 
 

The council doesnt pay for schools or hospitals as far as I am aware.  That is funded outside of the rates.   Libraries, sports centres etc are however, now Im not going to say we shouldnt have a libray but sports centres? that never make much money and in fact seem to lose it?
Seems nuts.
regards

I know I am a voice crying in the wilderness on this one but my best bet is the developer would get no bids. Not a sausage. Nada. Zip. Councils are built to preserve the status quo and new stuff costs them in many ways. I know this is counter-intuitive but councils only get revenue from ratepayers they don't get income. For that reason there is only upside for councils as institutions if they can avoid growth. It may be a quite different story for their communities.

Very familiar with those councils. With due respect there is a difference between efficiently accommodating the refugees and "hungering" after them.

You mean Councils that manage consenting rates ten to twenty times as high are merely "efficiently accomodating refugees"?
Kind of immoral of any Council that is creating the refugees in the first place, to claim it can't be done, then isn't it?

You and Hugh are welcome to interpret the rates of issuing residential building consents anyway you want. But here's my version:
 
Selwyn and Waimakariri have consistently featured in the top 5 growing territories in the country for 15 years or more. All that time both councils have been preparing for growth by drawing lines on maps to show where building could take place and by building infrastructure in anticipation of growth. Not only was Pegasus built and standing mostly empty at the time of the earthquakes but there was huge excess capacity (in various states of readiness) in Rangiora, Kaiapoi, Woodend, Rolleston and Halswell.
 
Both councils have obviously responded well to increased demand for building consents to build on this empty land but I wonder wehether you would be singing their praises if the planning and engineering preparation had not already been done.
 
It's a moot point as to whether the 'refugees' were caused by CCC or the insurance companies. Or they simply had a chance to 'try' by staying with friends/family straight after the earthquakes and found the places highly desirable.

Having recently being in the market for building a house in Christchurch/Canterbury. I can tell you the reason is you can get larger, safer (geotech wise) and 70K to 100K cheaper residential sections in Selwyn, Rangiora and Hurunui.
 
The choke point I believe will be the lack of transport infrastructure. So the councils may have wisely invested in good capacity 3 water schemes but NZTA has not followed suit. The northern motorway at peak hours is the northern crawlway. Something like this would open up the area completely from a transport and housing perspective.
 
This new town idea was debated on transportblog and maybe the town could be called New Houten.

Kumbel I think you are wrong. Or maybe you are not wrong but you shoud be wrong. The purpose of rates or local government taxes in general is they pay for the local public infrastructure required to live at a locally democratically agreed standard of 'civilisation'.
 
Local infrastructure goes through very long cycles of construction and replacement. It is the job of local councils to provide it. They should not shirk this responsibilty. They should welcome new economic activity into their district, especially young adults who have a lifetime of economic activity ahead of them, of which a small part (through the tax system) can be used to build and replace said local infrastructure.
 
If this isn't working we need to find out why and fix it.
 
Refusing to accomadate the next generation is the foolish option.

That's the nicest and most perceptive thing anyone has ever written about my opinions at interest.co.nz. 99% of what I write here "should" be wrong but unfortunately I don't think it is.
 
I think I should change my non-de-plume to Don't Shoot The Messenger..I did find out recently that 'Kumbel' is an Old Norse word for 'gravestone'. Definitely not what I thought when I picked it!

Any thoughts on the 'why and how' to fix it?
 
Hugh seems to take the approach of hounding and embarrassing LG for there failure to deliver. I am not sure it will work. He is having some impact but enough to change, not sure? 
 
I think we should transfer more taxation power to fund transport infrastructure, LG in return agreeing to a goal of maxmising mobility while minimising housing costs. Being explicitedly mandated to keep statistics on these variables.
 
This way LG can also put in transport infrastructure in advance of growth also.
 
Some regions would get it wrong but some would get it right and grow strongly on the back of it.
 
Also the purpose of LG should be pinned to the walls of every Council and the office of the Minister of LG as discussed by notaneconomist and Kumbel.

Not quite at the Grand Unified Theory yet but a few more sessions like this and I will be getting close :-) 
 
Start with Kumbel's Law: the bigger the council the less effective and efficient it is. I am with Hugh and waymad that councils' connections with their communities have declined since the Reorganisation of Local Government in 1989. Current proposals to form more unitary councils around the country will worsen the situation.
 
On the other hand, long-term management of assets especially 3 waters and roads benefits from heft.
 
It's about time we thought about dismembering our councils. I like the structure of your and my lines company: a trust to own the assets and disperse any profits and a standard commercial board to oversee the business operations. Put all our waters and roads into regional structures like that and get them away from the quagmire of council decision-making.
 
At this stage I would throw building control back to MoBIE where it belongs (there's no local control so why the responsibility?), food licensing to MPI where it belongs, rats and mice of environmental services to private companies contracted back to the responsible ministries.
 
Can't think of what to do with planning. The generous version is leave planning, parks and customer service with the rump councils (which could be split back to smaller units too). The ungenerous version is to start heating the tar and plucking the chickens.

My previous response is probably about as effective as Hugh's so let's try something more practical.
 
First of all stop trying to make out it's a morality play. If you ever find yourself about to type "immoral" go take a cold shower. Be very clear that local government proceeds according to clear rules and all the people within it act logically both to the rules of the game and according to their own incentives. Understand both of those and you have all the tools you need to tackle them.
 
Be very clear also about what you would like from a council. For all the millions of words spilled in these pages alone about councils precious little describes the ideal. Hugh is one of the few who at least stands up for his "many communities" ideal.
 
You still have the problem of effecting change. You can't shame councils as long as they perceive themselves as acting lawfully. Which is why you have to work on the system not the people.
 
Yes you can lobby for law changes. The more specific the statute or regulation the more likely it is that councils will respond. It's a slow process but very effective if you get it right.
 
There are a lot of short-term wins to be had by holding councils to account. Our main-stream media are universally clueless about local government even Aunty Radio New Zealand.
 
As a for instance I almost certain that Wellington City Council broke the amended LGA when it voted to strengthen its old Town Hall. The Property Council could have instigated a judicial review of the decision and had a good chance of winning but it didn't.
 
The recent furore over CCC's announcement that it would set charge-out rates for building officers at $165 - about double what I calculated the lawful charge to be - is another example where someone who knew the law could have stood up and challenged it.
 
I would like to see the Auditor-General taking a hard look at many of these practices but Kate says the AG and the Ombudsman are woefully underfunded.
 
Ultimately the biggest weakness in local government is that they focus on outputs not outcomes. Go back and look at the piece on Len Brown' vision for AKL. Short on why immigration and foreign investment would be good for the city; long on putiing more bums on seats in the Economic Development Unit.
 
That's a start.

And of course now with respect to the Wellington Town Hall - they have found the $43m budget agreed for EQ strengthening has ballooned out to (est) over $60m and work has halted on it.
So maybe there was actually something sensible in the amended LGA wording that they chose to completely ignore.

Kumbel what would happen if we converted the following to legal form and inserted as an admendment  to the LG Act. Alongside the purpose that notaneconomist commented on today in another comment stream....."Subpart 1—Purpose of local government..."
 
It is time for planners to abandon abstract objectives and to focus their efforts on two measurable outcomes that have always mattered since the growth of large cities during the 19th century’s industrial revolution: workers’ spatial mobility and housing affordability.
 
As a city develops, nothing is more important than maintaining mobility and housing affordability.
 
Mobility takes two forms: first, the ability to travel in less than an hour from one part of a city to another; and second, the ability to trade dwellings easily with low transactions costs.
 
Housing mobility allows households to move to the location that best maximize their welfare. Affordability is the ability for any urban household to be able to rent a dwelling for less than a 25% of its monthly income, or to buy one for less than about three time its yearly income.
 
The mobility and affordability objectives are tightly related. A residential location that only allows access to only a small segment of the job market in less than an hour commuting time has not much value to households, even if it is theoretically affordable.
 
Of course we would need to give LG the resources (taxes or CG grants) to achieve these objective and the statistical tools to measure whether LG is moving towards or away from there objectives.

I'm not sure I would want to make local government (as it stands) responsible for anything more. They assume enough responsibility as it is and waymad's quote from C.S.Lewis on the other thread says it all.
 
If you were hell-bent on this then I would say that these performance outcomes are already catered for in the word "quality" in the existing statute. It's a matter of taking vague wording and putting in specific targets or definitions. One way would be to resurrect the Community Outcomes but have them imposed by a third party such as central government.

Well of course the councils are going to object to any processes that would challenge their extortion practices. It's akin to going into a bar asking the patrons if it's ok if all the alcohol is removed.

Yes, I though when I read the article headline, "they would say that, wouldn't they......."

An Oldie, but still, I fondly surmise, a Goodie:
 
The Left Honourable President-for-life of the Union of Local Gubmint Drones, Larry Fool, has slammed the introduction of Commissioners for the oversight of Development and other contributions.

"Since time immerorial - well, actually, since that lovely Sandra Lee handed TLA's the power to make charges up for 'social and cultural wellbeing' and other chimerae, back in 2002, but I digress - Local Gubmint has proved a marvellous steward of the ratepayers money. We've provided wonderful festivals and entertainments, had a busker on most street corners, and provided Art in every Council-owned chunka dirt that's possible. We've brought happiness and contentment to many lives.

And now this heartless, heedless Gubmint is gonna bring this marvellous outpouring of human creativity to a crashing halt.

And the best part about the Development Contributions which funded quite a lot of this merriment is that Ratepayers didn't Pay for it! Greedy developers did! "

Your intrepid reporter pointed out to the Fool, that:

  • DC's are a cost component of either homes (if residential), businesses (if commercial) or industry (if - er - Industrial), and
  • that therefore by the simple notion of Cost-Plus Pricing, the homeowners are gonna pay anyway via increased housing costs, increased commerical prices or less industrial jobs,
  • plus interest, overheads and developer's profit, as DC's are often paid early in the development cycle
  • and that all such cost components imply an opportunity cost (if paid from cashflow) or direct interest cost (if paid via debt), which can effectively double the initial developer's final cost component
  • and that surely an adjudicative process would aid Transparency, Accountability and other buzzwords-du-jour, would it not?

 
The Fool waved his arms, airily, and spoke, laconically.

"I've practised this arm-waving for - oh - about a decade now. Good, Aren't I?"

Your humble scribe reminded him that there was actually a question implicit in our last exchange.

Larry waved his arms again - a smooth and clearly well-choreographed gesture.

He narrowed his eyes and answered slowly.

"Well, put it like this. Try and find a Source and Application of Funds statement in our voluminous Financials, which clearly sets out in one place, who pays DC's, and how they are used. There's yer Answer!  Transparency - it's All there.

Now, must be off. For some completely unconnected reason, I seem to have a whole pile of Subdivisions to assess for Made-up, oops, I mean Professionally Assessed Contributions-that-definitely-aren't-Rates-oh-no-never."
 
And off he strode, into the sunset, rubbing his hands together (another, it seemed, Practised gesture)  and counting to himself:
 
One million and one, One million and one hundred grand, One milly and a quarter.....

you wascal, you cynical wascal......

He's spot on. Speaking for those on the other side of the fence to the Councils. The Councils are getting away scot free over flagrant abuses of the public interest and social justice and flaunting the spirit and even the letter of the existing legislation which was bad enough.
Any new legislation will have to be draconian if there is to be any hope of reining the racketeers in. The whole principle of lumping fees upfront into the cost of new homes is wrong on social justice grounds anyway, and it is time the younger generation in this country wised up about the abuse that they are getting at the hands of the boomer generation. 
It would actually be fairer if there was a lump-sum tax of between $100,000 and $300,000 on every young person when they turn, say, 25; "to pay for the infrastructure that their birth imposed a need for". They are paying this kind of money anyway but it is not going to Councils or the government and it is not being spent on infrastructure. If it was, we would be awash with funds for infrastructure. 
For those who don't "get it"; the price of new houses affects the price of all existing houses too. 

Having been critical of council levies, I was asked if I seriously thought that there was a conspiracy by councils to make housing unaffordable.
I said well they all got together at their AGM in Queenstown and unanimously voted to oppose all the recommended changes to the LGA that the Govt. was proposing, so yes you could call it that, although that would be giving them too much credit, as all they were really concerned about is themselves, and whether it makes housing unaffordable or not, would not have crossed their minds.

What "public" do you mean? 
 
By taking action to prevent new housing being built, and thus pushing up the price of existing housing in any given neighbourhood - councils are doing exactly what is most in the interest of the people who already own homes in that neighbourhood, ie their voters.  

Well, folks, there's more where that one above came from.  I seem to have had a brain explosion about TLA's in 2013.....perhaps my early years in a kinder, better Local Government milieu, have made me Unduly Critical of the current racketeers.  Or something.

Well said - again - Waymad. There was indeed "better, kinder" LG once upon a time and the current mob are indeed "racketeers". 
I would add the layers of parasites on the status quo, to the definition of the "racket" - the lawyers, consultants, etc  especially the lawyers who represent Council interests at all times even when developers are paying them to represent theirs. This needs busting wide open. 

Councils are mostly a complete waste of time, effort and money. (Ours)
Most un-civil servants think that making us idiot paying citizens wait, will enable them being the masters, instead of the other way around.
Ask a certain mayor, who he works for to better.
And the answer is obvious, Himself.
They are paid to stall and abuse the systems, not fix em.
Just like the NZTA or whichever idiots put inane signs on all roads to waste the taxes we pay to keep the NZTA in business. It keeps an idiot in a job.
If the country was run as a business, we would not be in the mess we are in.
We need an enquiry into how the fools win, but the ratepayers and taxpayers lose.
 
 

I think Tom Waits says it all: (from 'Blood Money', working title 'Red Drum', released on the same day as 'Alice' in 2002)
 
There's a leak, there's a leak in the boiler room
The poor, the lame, the blind
Who were the ones we kept in charge
Killers, thieves and lawyers
God's away,
God's away,
God's away on business,
business

Expect our very own NZ version of "Blood Sucking Vampire Squid extending it's tentacles into every part"....to figh every inch to keep their blood sucking tentacles from being cut off from their source of blood.....Ours!!!

Suspect its already sucking just look at the interest....or that the banks are doing as well if not better in this recession.  For GS etc I supect in fact looking at its effect on global commodity prices which eventually effect NZ is noticable and it doesnt even have to land on NZ soil to do it.
regards

In 1998, the Sierra Club undertook

the task of researching the real costs of

sprawl to the US taxpayers. Their

studies identified specific projects and

dollars amounts where taxpayers are

subsidizing sprawl. The two examples

below are just two of the types of costs

paid by taxpayers.

Schools

In Washington State, the cost of

providing education for each new

single family house it $18,600. Devel-

oper impact fees range from $1,100 to

$6,140. This leaves the remaining

$12,000 per new household to be

paid by the taxpayers. Similar situa-

tions can be found in Arizona and

Colorado.

Utilities

In Arizona, the cost of hooking up

each home build in a “wildcat”

(subdivision) development costs

$23,000. Property taxes for the home

pays $1,700. The taxpayers pay the
difference
http://web.pdx.edu/~jdill/Costs%20of%20Sprawl.pdf
that's not to say I support the chaotic (win/loose) approach to density in my city (Christchurch). I support a complete rebuild of older areas (but that is just a pipe dream).

Thanks for that, jh. And good luck trying to make any headway with that argument around here.
 
I am in favour of removing artificial boundaries like urban limits but under a few conditions. As you say the main problem with random developments in the countryside is that the residents ultimately believe they are entitled to the same levels of public services as those who paid the extra to build in a serviced area. And by that I don't just mean water and sewer I also mean energy, schools, hospitals etc.
 
I am still waiting for a convincing explanation from the 'MUD' crowd as to how we will avoid ending up giving taxpayer and ratepayer handouts to the residents of these developments (and implicitly to the developers).
 
I still go with Eric Crampton who pojnts out that choosing where to buy a house is based on a bundle of factors - if 'cheap house, long drive' works for you go for it. I just don't want to see distortions turn up in the form of subsidies.