Labour responds to challenge from Joyce that political parties should seriously consider ProdComm urban planning proposals in Election 2017 campaign; Notes similarities to current policies

Labour has responded to Finance Minister Steven Joyce’s challenge that political parties should seriously consider the Productivity Commission’s urban planning change recommendations, by saying many of the suggestions already reflect its Election 2017 policies.

Joyce Wednesday said the biggest challenge following the report was the politics of the situation, saying parties should think about the recommendations going into September’s general election. “You can’t complain about RMA (Resource Management Act) and then not be prepared to make changes,” he said.

The report, released Wednesday, made 64 recommendations, including using central government creditworthiness to guarantee council borrowing, imposing value-enhancement taxes and re-evaluating rates to levy them on the unimproved component of land – in essence a device to encourage land bankers to develop.

The suggestions were medium-term hurdles that should be referenced in Election 2017 manifestos, Joyce said. National will get current changes to the RMA through Parliament before the election before looking at what new suggestions it could take into the election campaign.

Labour pointed out that a number of the recommendations mirrored its current policies, including targeted rates, infrastructure bonds, making urban land markets more competitive, and urban development authorities.

“The National Government wasted eight years trying to weaken the RMA with constant tinkering, instead of tackling the real road blocks to urban growth that have been a major cause of the housing crisis,” Labour Environment spokesman David Parker said.

“This is a polite way of saying National has dropped the ball for eight years. Freeing up restrictive land use rules so our cities can make room for growth could have been achieved eight years ago by a strong National Policy Statement under the RMA. Labour has been calling for that for the last five years,” Housing spokesman Phil Twyford added.

Wellington's Labour Mayor Justin Lester earlier this week hit out at private land bankers in the city's northern suburbs, saying the council was looking at ways to "encourage" them to begin development.

Central vs local govt

Joyce on Wednesday said National-led government Cabinet Ministers would “have a pretty serious conversation” about how to react to the recommendations. Government had in the past looked at scrapping the RMA but decided the move could create complexity and uncertainty for a period of time, he said.

One of the debates required was how much extra power should central government take off local authorities, Joyce said. “You could argue that the way people shape their own communities is up to them,” he said. “But you could also argue that for some of the bigger communities, the urban communities, the way that those are shaped has an impact on the whole country, and we see that in Auckland.”

The example of central government allowing for the Auckland Unitary Plan to be assessed by an independent hearings panel – something the Productivity Commission has recommended nationwide – was an example of central government intervention working.

“There’s no doubt that we wouldn’t have ever got an Auckland Unitary Plan through without a process like that. It would have taken years, and years, and years, and years,” Joyce said.

On the issue of targeted rates, Joyce said the government is currently working with the Auckland Council on a “tricky area” of current law on whether the council would be able to use the measure to fund specific large infrastructure projects. He referenced undeveloped future urban land north of Auckland, near Orewa.

“At the moment the council is saying, ‘we can’t afford to build some of that infrastructure because our debt limits are there’. The idea would be, you get a targeted rate across that land up there, and that would be an income stream that would pay the cost of some of that infrastructure,” Joyce said.

Expand our funding toolkit - local govt

Meanwhile, Local Government New Zealand welcomed the report, in particular the Productivity Commission’s suggestion that the local authority funding toolkit should be expanded.

“Urban development authorities are a tool widely used worldwide and will not be the whole solution but can be the catalyst for change. We are keen to have this additional tool for councils to deliver our key projects and to cut through some of the hurdles associated with fragmented land ownership,” LGNZ President Lawrence Yule said.

Business NZ CEO Kirk Hope said a new approach to resource management law would be a positive move. "Planning problems evident in cities today have arisen in part because of the broad and unclear provisions of the current Resource Management Act. The Commission recommends that a new act should contain clearly defined and restrained objectives. Planners would then have clearer parameters to work within,” Hope said.

Environmental Defence Society gives qualified support

Perhaps the biggest surprise to many – including Joyce and those at the Productivity Commission – was support received from the Environmental Defence Society. It welcomed recommendations for new legislation containing separate objectives and principles for the built and natural environments. “Crucially, it acknowledges the need for clear environmental limits to apply everywhere,” EDS CEO Gary Taylor said.

“The report finds that resource management challenges in towns and rural areas are different. We agree: the current system, following a large number of ad hoc amendments over many years, has evolved into a clunky hybrid that satisfies few,” Taylor said.

“Echoing the OECD’s report from last week, the Commission asserts a clear need to reform the system of funding infrastructure. For instance, both entities support road user charges, which is an idea that is overdue for deployment,” he said.

However, “a range of other recommendations including a one-stop shop for planning hearings, with rights of appeal to the Environment Court limited to points of law, need more thought. Public participation rights should not be curtailed.”

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12 Comments

This is what I hate about politicians. Who cares whose idea it is if it is the right one and going to benefit the Country as a whole!

It like children squabbling over which is their toy.
This is the reason for the surge in populism.

Blah Blah Blah .......... what utter nonsense , there is not one mainstream political party with a workable housing policy for Auckland .

I have read all of them , National has a confusing policy , Labour has an expensive unaffordable wishlist lined with a new bureaucracy ( God only knows how they plan to pay for it ) , The Greens have 3 short paragraphs about housing which is exclusively for the poor and for the rest of us they want us to go back 1000 years and live in grass huts .

NZ First is a National copy , EXCEPT they plan to ( almost) ban foreigners from the housing market

All we really need is deregulation lower council levies, fees and connection charges and in light of the tsunmai of new migrants , allow Auckland to expand on a massive scale to Wellesford in the north and Huntly in the South

OR

CLOSE THE IMMIGRATION FLOODGATES !

"The Greens have 3 short paragraphs about housing which is exclusively for the poor and for the rest of us they want us to go back 1000 years and live in grass huts "
What a ridiculous comment.
All parties other than National are campaigning on adjusting immigration settings.
Yet the greedy and the bigoted will vote National anyway.

AND the FOREIGN PURCHASE floodgates. (Or at least add a 15-20% Stamp Duty on everything except citizens / PRs. Including companies and trusts with foreign ownership.)

Lets get to the point , HOUSING is the only issue this election , there is nothing else of concern in any way shape or form .

Labour's delusional wishlist "policy" document says its going to provide standalone houses for everyone at $500,000 to $600 000 .

Well, we will take three of those immediatley for my 3 children , because I cannot find a single flat , decent , unwaterlogged section in Auckland for that sort of money .

Frankly , I dont know how on earth they will ever do it and I will not vote for them unless they can explain how they are going to do this .

What planet do they live on ?

Lets face it Boatman- no explanation from the deluded Labour party(your term) will be good enough for you.
Where have they stated that they will provide standalone houses for "everyone" ?
Where are the Greens promoting grass huts (other than in your head) as a solution.
Now that sounds delusional .

Boatman is a Nat fan having gained immensely from immigration and other hands off policy's by the do nothing government. He know bemoans his kids not being able to buy a house in Auckland? Can't have it both ways sorry.

True, it now becomes his choice of whether to spend his portfolio gains and leave his children without a shot at home ownership, or not spend it and give it to them instead.

Or start a Boatman commune with them and their spouses, I guess.

Yes, the fact that his own political ilk (National) have created this mess seems to have escaped him. But I'm sure he will assure us that there is "no possible alternative".

Maybe you didn't read the first point of recommendation, the planning failure is over two to four decades.

http://www.interest.co.nz/property/86746/nzs-urban-planning-framework-re...

Why don't your children just 'save harder' and give up the lattes and Sky TV?

Why debate for nothing will be achieved as long national is in power.

Just wait for few months and change government. Vote for anyone but National and may be ....May be solution is possible.