It could take a few years before new urban planning rules for delivering more affordable housing are in place, Bill English says; Labour says move is an admissiona of failed settings these past 9 years

It could take a few years before new urban planning rules for delivering more affordable housing are in place, Bill English says; Labour says move is an admissiona of failed settings these past 9 years

By Alex Tarrant

Latest: Bill English says reform of New Zealand's urban planning rules would be done with the aim of avoiding future sharp housing market cycles.

Speaking to media on Tuesday morning, English expanded on comments made Monday about National's aim to separate urban planning from the Resource Management Act.

"If we do a good job of it, we should be able to avoid sharp housing cycles happening again," English said Tuesday. "If we do a good job of it, it should be easier for businesses to get up and running at reasonable cost. It should be easier for councils to accommodate growth, because a lot of councils are still adapting to the fact that their towns and cities are growing," he said.

"They need to accommodate, they need to make land available, they need to deal with the local environmental issues so that people can have reasonably priced housing."

See the rest of his latest comments in the video above.

A few years of work, though

On Monday, English said it would likely take a few years to consult, work through and legislate for the new urban planning laws National is eyeing to speed up the building of more affordable housing.

This is despite a blueprint already existing in the form of the Productivity Commission’s 500-page report on urban planning released earlier this year. While that report will provide the backbone for proposals to separate urban planning from the Resource Management Act (RMA), English said the “few years” timeframe would be required to find consensus on how to overhaul city planning systems.

You can read more on the Productivity Commission’s report here. See its comments specifically on Auckland here. And watch a video interview with Commission chairman Murray Sherwin on urban planning here.

A National-led government after September 23 would endeavour to have new law in place by the time the next election rolls around, English told media in Wellington on Monday. He was speaking after National pledged new “fit-for-purpose” planning laws so that the RMA couldn’t impact urban planning.

Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford, and environment spokesman David Parker, attacked National’s announcement as a wild goose chase. “National’s announcement of a new urban planning law is an admission that after a decade of blaming the RMA for expensive housing they have failed to fix the problem,” Twyford said.

“Nick Smith’s constant tinkering with the RMA has only made it more complicated and cumbersome. National has been blaming the RMA and Councils for expensive housing but they failed to do the two things that would actually make housing more affordable,” he added.

“They could have used a National Policy Statement under the RMA to require Councils to free up the planning rules, get rid of the urban growth boundary, and use a smarter approach that allows our cities to make room for growth. They didn’t but Labour will.

“They could have turned on the tap for infrastructure financing by adopting Labour’s policy of using bond finance serviced by a targeted rate, instead of wasting years fiddling around trying to give lend money to Councils who cannot take on more debt. They didn’t but Labour will,” Twyford said.

New rules for towns/cities larger than 20,000

Under National’s plan, new rules would separate planning laws for towns and cities with populations larger than about 20,000-30,000, English said. They would clarify what planning law applied in these areas. Boundary issues would be important to work through, but were only one set of issues, he said.

“The important thing here is…clarity of intent. That, if we become the government, then we will set out on the process of creating separate urban planning legislation so that we can deal better with the success and strength of New Zealand.”

“We want people to be able to afford housing, we want to see businesses get the opportunity to grow at reasonable costs,” English said. There was a broad consensus that if New Zealand was going to have growing cities with high environmental standards, while maintaining the strength of the economy, then government needed to look at a separate urban planning system to the RMA.

Detail in the Productivity Commission’s report was “aimed at our cities being able to be more responsive to growth,” he said. “We’ve seen, with the large number of Kiwis staying home, with pressures in the housing market, that the planning system has not been able to respond.”

English said the government has had to legislate to bypass restrictive planning laws each time there had been a significant requirement for change – including in Christchurch after the earthquakes regarding infrastructure and housing. “The system we’ve had in place hasn’t dealt well with what are now dynamic and growing cities. And that’s why we want to change it,” he said.

National would not look to repeal the RMA, however. “You need more in place to deal with all the work that’s going on at the moment. There’s extensive construction and building of homes, roads, schools, hospitals. So, we would want to see that continue while the work is done on what would be an alternative regime for urban planning.”

He said National anticipated creation of an urban planning process which dealt with issues like infrastructure and housing density; dealing with settings which, because they added so much time to planning processes, had created pressure in the housing market by raising costs.

“A lot of the work would be about creating the environment specifically for our growing cities. We’ve taken some measures, like the policy statements on urban planning assist somewhat, but when you’ve got New Zealand in a strong position, jobs being created, more Kiwis staying home, a big construction boom with more houses being built, we want legislation that’s more fit for purpose.”

English said National would like to gain consensus across environmental groups, business, farmers and the infrastructure industry on the proposals, all of which agreed that “we could do a better job of this.”

“And [that consensus] is backed up by some of these studies that show, for instance, that the red tape in our planning system can add up to 50% to the cost of a house. Now, that affects families, and we need to be able to do better here in New Zealand to support families, make sure their housing is achievable and affordable.”

The Productivity Commission report would be the backbone of work to be done. “We’d get started straight away. A number of years’ work have been done, and I would imagine over the next two or three years we would make considerable progress, bearing in mind you have to turn all this into legislation. That takes a bit of time,” English said.

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"...move is an admission of failed settings these past 9 30 years..."

Jacinda! Your Party is as much to blame as National, and all and any other Party that's had any sort of say on the matter. Ask Helen. She thought/thinks the current setting are just right....


After nine years in power, National still too weak to take responsibility.

Surely another sign that this 'few years' might be another empty promise that will never eventuate.

So Bill - sounds like the non crisis housing crisis is actually, realy, no BS, a crisis after all.

I gather you are are going to sort out the homeless and are going to form a committee to investigate it then ignore all the findings and put Nick Smith onto it after he sorts the water crisis out next Wed by raising the acceptable levels of pollution.


"Nationals urban planning changes could take a few years". Yes and then they'll carry on doing nothing and still get their pay check.

National would do well to remember that; You can only fool some people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time.

That statement applies to all Politicians. Time we had a clean out of all parties and a reduction in the number of MP's

As an Eastern Bays NIMBY and National voter I'm seriously conflicted here. I see this move as a signal that the Unitary Plan will be toast in a few years. Nick Smith wanted to put the Government's might behind the fight to defeat the NIMBYs in Three Kings so I don't see them as idealogicaly opposed to doing the same elsewhere.

Despite their foibles, National seems to be on the rise again - following Jacinda's honeymoon period.

People are beginning to focus on the extravagant taxation that a Labour Govt would bring and its stifling impact on productivity and profitability - and ultimately on the welfare of middle-class households.

Don't say you weren't warned.......

It started out as a likely Nats and NZF win and will end up with that. The rise of the labour vote so early in the campaign has given time to mobilise the Right leaning vote. Ironically, its parties like TOP that are helping the Nats, wasting left leaning votes. Nice one GM.

up the current strategy of buying and selling houses to each other...and importing masses of people is improving productivity how?

So 73,000 new residency visa holders plus over 200,000 temporary work permit holders plus the others who claim to be just visiting but don't go home aren't the cause/effect - it's just the lack of sections on farm land outside the RUB? Give me a break.

Tothepoint; add to the drag on productivity that Labours secret tax agenda wil bring, their planned regression back to 1970's style compulsory unionism and centralised wage setting. Many younger voters have no experience of what it is like to live in a country where union thugs can, at will , hobble businesses.


I can't help but laugh at the stupidity of you guys, sometimes.
You genuinely believe this sort of crap?

The incisive depth of your factual analysis of the issue under discussion and reasoned response, takes my breath away.


Haha. And you believe your assertion to be factually based?
I'm not defending Labour. They have some explaining to do on their policy.
But at least they aren't engaging in petty scaremongering, like yourself and the National Party.

Perhaps it's just the case that you are happy to go along with the rhetoric. In any case, you are normal by NZ standards. But, when you do that on this site, you look like a fool. And, that is exactly what you have done now.

Sounds like you might have the luxury of not having any direct owning exposure to the impact of Labour policies on the viability of businesses - unlike me. The concerns I express are well founded and widely held among business proprietors. But I'm done with your insults, have a nice day.

There were plenty of very viable businesses during the last Labour term, I don't remember any of the issues you discuss.

Sounds like party-line talking points, to me.

Its a secret, shhh everyone will know.

But these guys have extra super powers to know what is actually going to happen. Still cant see whats happening now though with 70,000 plus immigration, homelessness, average auckland house price 1 mill, DTIs 10 times, but its the future secret stuff we have to be scared of.

The National Party Boiler Room is busy - how much were you paid for that one

Labour cannot increase taxes because far too many workers are paying far too much rent or insanely high mortgages. A vote for National is a vote from the uninformed and/or selfish.

There wasn't anything wrong with nz from 2004 to 2012. That's a 4 year period of a boom and the next 4 years a bust. It's also a period of 4 years each of national and labour and this period in nz was still ok. But all 2013 to 2017 has given nz is, Homelessness, living in cars , living in unlined sheds, money laundering out of control, putting people in motels, house hold dept through the roof, unaffordability of housing for local, shortage of housing, immigration level problems, overseas investors problems, the home ownership to rentals percentage going the wrong way, bank savings that can't keep up, FHBers pushed out of the market to a lifetime of renters killing future housing markets. Have a real long think about the direction national has sent nz over the last few years with a stupid goal that high house prices are a good idea, THEY ARENT , most home owners buy on the same market . You sell for say $600k to upsize or downsize a little. The same as a million dollar houses but $600k your mortgage is less, you can help your kids more, or even buy a rental easier. THINK ABOUT 2004 to 2012 AND SAY WE CAN DO THIS, brain before greedy investors because they are 90% of the problem. Investors are ok, I'm one , but not if out of control including overseas investors. The greedy will say 2004 to 2012 house prices would be taking the country backward. I say it was stupid of national to take us in the direction in the first place. The markets going down anyway and more so after the election over the next 4 to 6 years. BUYERS OUT THERE . Let it go down, don't swarm to buy and vote for change, be happy

Landlords with a business model focusing on stable rental yields from providing good accommodation services (warm, dry.....) should do ok in the new environment. Those focusing on capital gains might have a few issues......

Brendon. Issues too for people looking forward to an inheritance when parents pass on. Labours granny tax grab of part of her house when she goes into care, will mean the traditional windfall is much reduced.

Is there an inheritance tax or isnt there. Im sure there isnt, I havent heard Jacinda say there is.....

If there is, its not as bad as unlimited immigration, homelessness up the wazoo, DTIs 10 times, foreign money buying houses from under us, traffic congestion, hospital ques. Unless you live in a bubble this stuff impacts all. Unless you go private in hospitals.

If my children inherit stuff from me its a lot more then I ever got. But I will also give them a great education, and if my business is successful, they can learn to run that. They will have more then enough. Oh yeah plus my property or properties. Plus a society that cares if we get rid of National.

We don't need the inheritance tax in 1050. We are not the ATM of the Labour Party!

Yeah DGZ your just in a bubble, living in all of NZ, but choosing to be in your bubble when it suits you.

I dont want inheritance tax, but I dont want homelessness, I dont want 10 * DTis , I dont want traffic congestion, I want education for all and not just 1050. The list goes on.......unfortunately for National.

But has Jacinda said she was going to introduce this tax, if not its just waffle and scaremongering.

O4 I liked most of what you wrote but cannot copy and paste it all so I will just take this bit.

"But all 2013 to 2017 has given nz is, Homelessness, living in cars , living in unlined sheds, money laundering out of control, putting people in motels, house hold dept through the roof, unaffordability of housing for local, shortage of housing, immigration level problems, overseas investors problems, the home ownership to rentals percentage going the wrong way, bank savings that can't keep up, FHBers pushed out of the market to a lifetime of renters killing future housing markets. "

But all 1050 and 1071 have given us is anything but the above.

DGZ I think you are a bit loopy, but I do find you funny in a weird way. A bit like Mr Bean.

DGZ, I bet I could tell you in a coffee shop. The big loudmouth trying to get all the attention. Maybe a puffy scarf round your neck


So is Bill English saying "wait, wait I am not ready for housing to be an election issue in 2017, let's make housing the issue of the 2020 election"?

Sir John Key managed to completely screw up Auckland with his Super City inside of 12 months of taking office. give that a thumbs up...but due to the title you have used for by the screwer, I can't.

Actually you mean ACTs Super City

Nope, National's super city, along with National's charter schools, both, I believe, part of the deal with ACT as the Nats did not include these in their policy manifestos as they knew they would probably go down like a cup of the proverbial. They made out it was part of the trade off of the deal with ACT - yeah right.
I am surprised they didn't foist the GST rise and income tax cuts for the rich onto them as well.

The Super City was Rodney Hide's Baby!!!

Alex, do you by any chance know what studies English is referring to in this statement?

some of these studies that show, for instance, that the red tape in our planning system can add up to 50% to the cost of a house.

For example, this study funded by MBIE would suggest that statement is way out:

The striking thing about the results was that land costs amounted to only 25% of total costs and the Council consenting costs were only 4% of total costs. Unsurprisingly, construction costs dominate the Cost Tower at 51% of total costs.

This one Kate it was a report commissioned by Steven Joyce.

I discuss it in the supply section of my long form city spatial economics paper.

Thanks, Brendon - I got confused by the term "red tape", thinking they meant direct costs of compliance (as opposed to the effect of land use regulation more broadly).

Note this means that if the land-use reforms are made that this analysis says are there, then the private sector can build KiwiBuilds for a much lower price too. In other words, Labour can fulfil its price promises wrt KiwiBuilds. Steven Joyce's own analysis says this to be true.


The beacon study is based on affordable housing of the type that was built in the Auckland market 2012-2015 and it found that land costs were 25% of total costs of a little bit under $400,000. Which means the average land cost in the study is a touch under $100,000.

It is very difficult to find land in the Auckland market at anything like the $100,000 found in that study and the study is useless.

Hi Kate - yep the Sense Partners one linked to by Brendon above, cheers

Yep, got it thanks - my confusion related to your use of the term "red tape" - I was associating that with consenting costs alone.

Hi all, updated with comments from English on this on Tuesday - see new head and video above,



The critical issue for urban planning is the "show me the money" question. How will infrastructure needed to open up land supply be funded. 30 years ago in the 1980's and earlier that didn't matter -NZ had a well funded MoW. since 1876 it had been the country's pre-eminent planning and infrastructure providing agency.

But from the 1990's free market dogma meant government's did not value buying land for infrastructure projects in advance of development. Planning was not done well. Room was not made for urban expansion. The initial dividing up of future urban areas into public and private spaces is a critical step, as explained here.

Despite this lack of real infrastructure preparation, local governments have been encouraged by Wellington to make room.

Costs started to rise, infrastructure deficits kicked in. Arguments between big local governments like Auckland against Wellington raged backwards and forwards for years and years. Bribery, blaming, arm twisting, accusations, bickering, individual infrastructure concessions based on political influence.... on and one it went.

Add in NZ is now growing as fast as the baby boomer years and a perfect storm hit.

Given this history I can't see anything in Nick Smith's and Bill English's latest announcements that they understand how to fix this

Labour on the other hand acknowledge the infrastructure challenges with its bond infrastructure financing/targeted rate scheme and also with its petrol tax proposal. Their proposed solutions are more balanced.

Yes, couldn't agree more - the QP site even mentions it:

Most of these works were proposed during the 1970s, at the time of district scheme reviews. Some of the proposed designations were fulfilled, but many were either scaled back in size (such as motorways reduced to roads) or were eventually withdrawn completely (such as proposed schools that were never built).

Historically, proposed designations often served little purpose beyond land acquisition and putting the public on notice of the future use of the land. There are few examples of designations for ‘proposed works’ under the RMA.

The move to state-owned corporations and eventually privatisation in the 1980s and 1990s resulted in fewer proposed designations. Under the RMA, the use of proposed designations has been discontinued by the lapsing requirements of the Act which means that most works are established on designated sites within defined timeframes.

Here's an article from the NY Times discussing Houston's flood plain mapping (or lack thereof). It seems subdividing and building en mass is only sensible when you do all your homework on major rain events etc. NZ hopefully won't make the same mistake.