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Finance Minister says Govt expects Auckland Council to approve Unitary Plan that caters for housing supply growth needs; says August vote on Plan 'probably the single biggest issue for house prices across the country'

Finance Minister says Govt expects Auckland Council to approve Unitary Plan that caters for housing supply growth needs; says August vote on Plan 'probably the single biggest issue for house prices across the country'
Finance Minister Bill English speaking to reporters in Parliament on August 25, 2015. Photo by Lynn Grieveson for Hive News.

By Bernard Hickey

Finance Minister Bill English has ramped up the pressure on the Auckland Council to agree to a Unitary Plan in August that allows for the city to grow its housing supply in a way that takes pressure off prices and financial stability nationally.

English delivered his annual pre-Budget address to the Wellington Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday and chose to fire a shot across the bows of the Council ahead of it receiving the recommendations of the statutory Independent Hearings Panel (IHP) on the Unitary Plan, which will set the zoning and other rules for house building and town planning for decades to come.

The IHP is due to deliver the recommended plan to the Council in the last week of July and the Council must notify the Plan by August 19. The Council voted 13-8 against its own proposals to the IHP for more intense development rules on February 24, raising fears the Council could reject a Unitary Plan proposal for more intense development and and extension of its Metropolitan Urban Limits.

The Council, which by then will be in the final weeks of an election campaign, could choose to reject all or parts of the proposed plan, which would throw the Government's supply-led strategy for dealing with Auckland's housing shortage into disarray.

English noted that Auckland needed to build an average of 13,000 houses a year for the next 30 years, but had built only 9,500 houses last year. MBIE, the Productivity Commission and the Reserve Bank have estimated the housing supply shortage at anywhere from 20,000 to 60,000.

"The Government's very clear expectation of Auckland Council is that it will approve a plan in August that delivers that kind of supply," English said, referring to the Council's own target of 13,000 houses a year.

"It is for Auckland to decide how and where that target is achieved," he said.

'Forcing councils to release land'

English said Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith was working on strengthening national direction to Councils on housing supply, specifically through a National Policy Statement (NPS) that the Government can make under the Resource Management Act. English said this NPS "would force councils to release more land in response to economic signals and stop the type of problems which have developed in Auckland over the last 20 years or so."

"We'll be scrutinising the Auckland Unitary Plan in a few months. It's probably the single biggest issue related to house prices across the country," he said.

English said these Auckland housing issues couldn't be solved with more Budget funding and the Government's focus was on continuing to work with councils to get more houses built.

Appointing Commissioners not ruled out

Later English told reporters the Government was also looking at other options if the Unitary Plan either did not provide the housing supply room or the Council rejected it.

"We're looking at those options. Nick Smith mentioned one yesterday (National Policy Statement) around the Government being more directive about what the plans should have," English said.

"It's our assumption that the Auckland Council understand what's required for Auckland. It's a growing city. If they want to be a world class city then a plan that allows that kind of growth and supply of land to feed it is what they'd want to produce," he said.

"We're working on the assumption that they'll produce a plan that will work. We might have to cover the option that they don't."

English was then asked if appointing Commissioners to run Auckland was an option for the Government. "There's a range of options and we'll have a look at them," he said, without ruling out the appointment of Commissioners.

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BH - the go-to doc, linking which would vastly add context for your article, is here:

So why have provincial cities house prices risen significantly over the last 9 - 12 months?. Most of them have plenty of supply, plenty of council led sections, etc.
How much 'supply' will be enough to equalise with demand? With 1100 immigrants per week, 110,000 international students, many foreign buyers, extended families and networks of PRs, - there's enough demand to snap up hundreds of thousands of houses.
This Government is deluded, or wilfully denying the truth about the housing situation.

Mainly because they are still using the same dysfunctional restrictive zoning policies as they do in Auckland.

It is not much easier to get subdivisions approved even when the land is freely available. All councils see land development as a source of super revenue, it's just a fight been land bankers and the council over who gets it.

The councils have a point to claiming it, after all it is their restrictive zoning polices that caused these artificial costs.

Under the present system we are paying Rolls Royce prices to get Lada's.

In Queenstown, the consent for the Bridesdale in the SHA still took 5 months to approve in a 'streamlined process'.
There is far too much meddling over petty matters.

The other issue is Services.
Councils need some competition.

Yes, willful denial is the term. The government is trying to deflect attention from the root cause, pathetically managed immigration towards, Auckland Council matters.

It will be interesting to see how far and how long the so-called government can continue with its irresponsibility. It is consciously breaking the social contract by demanding New Zealanders to pay national taxes and abide by national laws, while aggressively protecting the interests of an international audience at the expense of New Zealanders.

Honestly, I do not care or see any entitlement for all these people coming here, whether as bogus students or questionable "refugees". Their interests should be clearly second to ours. Or the NZ government can declare itself as a world government and levy global taxes - then it would have a right to treat NZers and foreigners equally.

New Zealand cannot cope with the massive immigration influx. The government has to acknowledge that and curb immigration, especially of people with low skills and people who could develop into security threats. It is crazy, that basically open immigration seems to be a sacred cow these days and the government is refusing to discuss it in any way.

Meddling in AKL council matters is a desperate stunt by government that is failing to perform its duties.


{English was then asked if appointing Commissioners to run Auckland was an option for the Government. "There's a range of options and we'll have a look at them," he said, without ruling out the appointment of Commissioners.}

We should replace John Key's Government with commissioners.

Imagine if that happened they would sell all of aucklands assets to fund roads and water pipes and screw over future generations so they could squeeze more people in

Could the Governor-General dismiss the incompetent?

Austria's PM just resigned to preclude a likely dismissal by the likely next Austrian president. The days of Brazil's corrupt and incompetent head of state also seem up.

It is a sad international trend that governments - with massive help from uncritical, trivialized media - are systematically abusing power and ignoring the will of the people they pretend to represent. Hopefully we now also see the start of a trend which sees these mini-dictators expelled.

A Brexit and Trump as US President would propel the re-democratization of our societies.

Just one with a brain, would do.!?.

Report in the paper today that they want to remove the dominion road over bridge to put up a few apartments. The powers that be have lost all sense and are now grabbing at straws.

Importing a few less third world taxi drivers might be a better alternative.

Building lots more houses would be fine with me if transport is seriously addressed. That will need many billions of investment. The government will need to assist. Failing those plans I am not enthusiastic about an extra half million people.


If you use chrome, get rid of the double posts and the flag with this plugin.

No need to appoint Commissioners to replace the current Councillors- just get the damn thing (the very original proposed AUP) approved in its entirety without any fear from the minority who do not care where the additional units are built as long as its not near them. Look at the original AUP- THE best plan and very long overdue plan.

Ohh I disagree. The Councillors are terrified of being voted out by a bunch of old home owners in those East Coast Bays who wield the voting stick. I think this shot across the bow from English will prompt action.

I think the voting stick is wielded by tenants in Auckland. Time to mobilise the troops.

Exactly. Kind of ironic that the generation so interconnected by social media could take a good lesson from Grey Power as to how to mobilise themselves towards wielding electoral influence.

We are the many. The ever occupied Hand of Father Time renders your decadent generation fewer by the day.

Our voting power grows. Yours weakens.

Soon. Very soon. We're coming for your houses. And your pensions.

OPR is more likely to be seen at Harvey Norman buying a smartphone before heading off to Raro!!, than voting ( for any of the otherwise unemployable pinheaded wasps infecting the Beehive.); then wondering why he can't save...
Great post though!

Ha OPR, if only. I suggest waiting for your adversaries to die is a somewhat underwhelming strategy.

Clearly there is a need for generation rent to harness the power of social media to organise your cohort to use their influence via the ballot box. The optics of those two young people being hectored and overwhelmed at the Auckland plan meeting a couple of months back should have been a salient lesson for what you are up against.

By the way I am generation X so hopefully I will be around for awhile yet! Oh and I am a humble sheep farmer down south who has no interest in an Auckland house but have found myself becoming quite indignant at what I perceive as the injustices against young New Zealand citizens.