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Developers Seek Transparency, Better Communication on Growth

Media Release
30 August 2016

Developers Seek Transparency and Better Communication on Growth

A Facebook post [refer here] by outgoing mayor Julie Hardaker has riled developers, who say they have lost confidence in Hamilton City Council’s growth planning, and want better communication and transparency between the Council and developers.

Property Council’s Waikato Branch President, Thomas Gibbons, says the Council claims it has made land available for housing by zoning it.

“Zoning land, however, does not mean it is ready for housing. The missing link is infrastructure.” Mr Gibbons is baffled by the Mayor’s suggestion that developers are to blame for a lack of supply.

“Is that why Central Government will soon implement a National Policy Statement on Urban Development Capacity? Is that why the Productivity Commission has said that councils need to do more to make land available for housing?” Mr Gibbons states, “To say that ‘the Council has done it’s bit’ is not only poor grammar, it is also a cop out. It is easy to make broad accusations based on a couple of anecdotes about some developer drip- feeding sections to market. But the reality is that most developers want titles yesterday. Most lots are sold off the plans well in advance of titles.

There are plenty of stories out there about battles to get the Council to understand the infrastructure needs of growth cells, and what is needed to meet demand.”

Mr Gibbons says it is not just a matter of saying that land is ‘developer ready’. A development must be cost-effective in order to be delivered. He says, “It is unfortunate that the reality that a business case must underpin all development seems to have been ignored.” Property Council and its developer members have raised concerns on numerous occasions about the consenting process and infrastructure-related issues, including the city’s Growth Funding and Development Contributions Policies.

“We have discussed at length how the Council’s use of the Net Present Value model to calculate development contributions results in over-charging developers. The lack of action has led us to call on Central Government to phase out the NPV model as part of its reforms to the Local Government Act 2002.” Mr Gibbons says members have offered to arrange a peer review of Council figures, projections, and costing.

Mr Gibbons says the Council’s books are balancing because of the high amounts of development contributions that are being collected, not all of which are being invested in infrastructure soon after. He says that if development slows, the Council’s books will look very different.“Fortunately, most developers’ projections far outpace those of the Council, so it looks as though the Council and ratepayers will get the benefit of development contributions for years to come.” Mr Gibbons acknowledges that Council staff have suggested a developer forum, which Property Council welcomes.

“Developers are always willing to cooperate, but transparency and genuine two-way communication is key. We need to ensure there is transparency in the Council’s assumptions and growth projections.” Mr Gibbons says, “We need a real rethink of Council policies that unnecessarily constrain development.

We need to have a progressive and sustainable way forward for Hamilton’s affordability and growth. A developer forum should be developer-led. Why not have the Property Council chair it?” Property Council sees enabling and managing city growth as the key issue in the forthcoming local body elections.

“This is a major platform of our forthcoming election manifesto, and it will be a key element of our Mayoral Candidate Debate on 1 September,” says Mr Gibbons.

“Property Council sees effective and sustainable development as a partnership between developers, the Council, and the community. Blaming developers might score political points but it does not help put people in houses.”

END.

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