Nats and govt get cosy on housing-density rules – but Collins vows to pull the plug on Three Waters asset grab

Just one new post had been posted on the Beehive website, when we checked this afternoon.

But it was a significant announcement, triggering media headlines such as RNZ’s Housing density to increase across New Zealand under rare bipartisan solution.

In a nutshell, National and the government have worked together to design new housing-density rules to allow three homes three storeys tall without a consent.

At much the same time, RNZ could assure us the Ardern government remains subject to National criticism on other matters.  Under the headline PM ‘treated New Zealanders like children’ – Judith Collins, we learned:

National Party leader Judith Collins has attacked Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s approach to the Auckland lockdown, saying she is treating New Zealanders like children…

But RNZ had not posted (when we checked, anyway) the news that Collins has pledged the next National Government will repeal Labour’s Three Waters entity model and return any seized water assets back to councils.

“Labour’s proposal to centralise council water assets into four mega-entities, taking them away from local ratepayer control, is hugely unpopular with a majority of councils across New Zealand.

“It’s clear the Government plans to imminently legislate their Three Waters Reforms and make them compulsory for all councils, forcibly seizing ratepayer-owned water assets and bundling them into these new entities.

“If Labour do try to ram their changes through Parliament, National will unwind the four entity model when we form the next government in 2023.”

Labour’s proposal to centralise council water assets into four mega-entities, taking them away from local ratepayer control, was hugely unpopular with a majority of councils across New Zealand, Collins said.

But she was curiously coy about the anti-democratic co-governance proposal for the four mega-entities to take over and operate the water services now provided by elected local authorities.  Under the government’s plan, an equal number of Maori tribal representatives will share decision-making responsibilities with council representatives on the new organisations.

In other words, National is objecting to amalgamation rather than to Treaty-based co-governance arrangements.

“Labour needs to urgently halt their Three Waters plans, and abandon their appetite for amalgamation.

“National will continue to strongly oppose the Three Waters asset grab, and we will keep standing up for community decision-making.”

On  the housing crisis that has generated Labour-National togetherness, RNZ provides a link to the media conference and reports:

In a rare show of bipartisanship, Labour government ministers Megan Woods and David Parker shared the podium with National’s leader Judith Collins and housing spokesperson Nicola Willis to announce the changes at midday.

The parties worked together on the new Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Bill, which aims to make it easier to build houses.

It includes new intensification rules allowing up to three homes three storeys high to be built on most sites without resource consent, a change from district plans which typically only allow for one home of up to two storeys.

This would apply in Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington, and Christchurch, where councils would be required to adopt medium-density residential standards.

The Beehive website records this news under the heading Red tape cut to boost housing supply.

The press statement highlights four points:

  • New building intensification rules will mean up to three homes of up to three storeys can be built on most sites without the need for a resource consent
  • New rules will result in at least 48,200 and as many as 105,500 new homes built in next 5-8 years
  • Bringing forward by at least one year the implementation of the National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD) that cuts red tape that blocks housing development
  • Labour and National work together to provide policy certainty to developers and first home buyers

First home buyers are set to benefit from changes to planning rules being advanced by the Government and the National Party that will enable more medium density housing and cut red tape that acts as a barrier to development, Housing Minister Dr Megan Woods and Environment Minister David Parker announced today.

Under the changes people will be able to build up to three homes of up to three storeys on most sites without the need for a resource consent. Currently district plans typically only allow for one home of up to two storeys.

New Zealand’s housing shortage is being made worse in our biggest cities by limits on the number and types of houses that can be built, Megan Woods said.

The changes will enable more homes that are attractive to first home buyers to be built in areas closer to their work, public transport and community facilities.

PwC undertook a cost-benefit analysis (CBA) on the National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD) and found that 72,000 additional dwellings could be expected by 2043 as a result of implementing the intensification policies in tier 1 urban areas. PwC now regards this as likely to be a conservative estimate.

Further modelling by PwC found the proposed medium density rules we are announcing today are expected to add 48,200-105,500 dwellings on top of these figures, over the next five to eight years. Woods said

There will be exemptions in the medium density rules in areas where intensification is inappropriate, such as where there is a high risk of natural hazards, or a site has heritage value.

David Parker said a Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) Amendment Bill will be introduced shortly.

The changes will complement other initiatives under way to address the housing crisis including:

  • $3.8 billion Housing Acceleration Fund
  • $460 million for housing and urban development shovel-ready projects
  • $380 million for Māori housing
  • tax changes and the urban development and infrastructure funding and financing

Related Documents

One of two statements from the Nats is headed National Drives Game-changing Housing Reform.

In this, Judith Collins says National has worked constructively with the Government in support of a new Bill to amend the Resource Management Act to make it easier for New Zealanders to build more houses.

“While Parliament is an adversarial place by nature, it is important that politics can be put aside in emergency situations – be it responding to terror attacks, getting the message out on vaccinations, or addressing our housing emergency.”

Changes in the Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Bill will allow New Zealanders to do more on their land without needing a resource consent, reducing the time, cost and complexity that too often greets those who want to build new dwellings, she said.

“I see these measures as being consistent with National’s commitment to cutting red-tape, freeing-up options for where new dwellings can be built, enhancing the rights of property owners and effectively creating a ‘right to build’ in existing urban areas.”

Collins emphasised that nothing in the Bill forced people to build more density.

“This is simply about removing barriers that can get in the way of sensible development.”

The Bill will also allow local authorities to fast-track private-plan changes for new greenfields development.

National’s Housing and Urban Development spokesperson Nicola Willis was given a slice of the action with a statement headed Housing Bill A Step Forward, With More To Be Done.

Housing shortage had built up under successive governments, she acknowledged – but:

“Today National and Labour are coming together to to say an emphatic ‘yes’ to housing in our backyards.

“This legislation takes power away from town planners and gives it back to the people they serve. It will allow our cities to develop and grow, with a range of housing types to suit people at different stages of life.”

National would keep pushing for the changes needed to address New Zealand’s housing challenges– for example, improving infrastructure financing, boosting Build-to-Rent development, powering-up community housing providers, reversing property tax increases, improving the performance of Kāinga Ora and streamlining Building Act processes.

Latest from the Beehive

Red tape cut to boost housing supply

First home buyers are set to benefit from changes to planning rules being advanced by the Government and the National Party that will enable more medium density housing and cut red tape that acts as a barrier to development, Housing Minister Dr Megan Woods and Environment Minister David Parker announced today.

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