Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search

 

N Z RMA Reform: Nick Smith’s Confusion

N Z RMA Reform: Nick Smith’s Confusion

Hugh Pavletich FDIA
Co author - Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey
Performance Urban Planning
Christchurch
New Zealand

14 September 2010

On Tuesday 12 September 2010, New Zealand’s Environment Minister Hon Dr Nick Smith released the keenly awaited Resource Management Act (New Zealand’s land use law) Phase 2 Reforms, under the rather grand title “Planning reform needed for NZ cities to be competitive” stating –

“We are not getting the right infrastructure in place at the right time” Dr Smith said “Poor quality decisions on land planning are making homes too expensive.”

He got that much right, but then got confused from there.

Readers were led in to a 95 page meandering Discussion Paper, underpinned by a misnamed 70 page Technical Report. For those capable of withstanding “bureaucratic mush” as its worst, they could inflict even more suffering on themselves, by reading further forgettable homegrown background material.



Poor Dr Smith. No one was kind enough to remind the Minister to define clearly what an affordable and competitive city is. So here goes –

“For metropolitan areas to rate as ‘affordable’ and ensure that housing bubbles are not triggered, housing prices should not exceed three times gross annual household incomes. To allow this to occur, new starter housing of an acceptable quality to the purchasers, with associated commercial and industrial development, must be allowed to be provided on the urban fringes at 2.5 times the gross annual median household income of that urban market. The fringe is the only supply and inflation vent for an urban market. The critically important Development Ratios for this new fringe starter housing should be 17 – 23% serviced lot / section cost – the balance, the actual housing construction. Ideally through a normal building cycle, the Median Multiple should move from a Floor Multiple of 2.3 through a Swing Multiple of 2.5 to a Ceiling Multiple of 2.7 – to ensure maximum stability and optimal medium and long term performance of the residential construction sector.”

The writer has often repeated this definition within numerous articles, such as Houston, we have a (housing affordability) problem and many others at his website Performance Urban Planning and the research resource on urban issues, the Demographia website.

There is no “mystery’ at all about how to supply affordable housing, as the great construction industry entrepreneur Bill Levitt had it all figured out over sixty years ago. He dragged the residential construction sector from the “horse and buggy” era to the modern disciplined production one we know today. Bill Levitt figured out how to supply $US7,000 - $US8,000 new suburban houses to SINGLE EARNER young families, earning $US3,500 a year. The wives / partners were not forced to be “mortgage slaves” through that era either.

Enduring listening to politicians “agonizing” over housing is embarrassing.

It seems too, Dr Smith is unaware of the six Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Surveys. This year’s Survey (data September quarter 2009) illustrates clearly that the eight major metros of New Zealand have bubbled out to a Median Multiple (median house price divided by gross annual median household income) of 5.7 – with Tauranga at 6.8; Auckland 6.7; Christchurch 6.1; Wellington 5.8; Dunedin 5.6 with Hamilton and Napier 5.0 and Palmerston North 4.6.

To “add insult to injury”, poor quality governance created an $NZ11 - $NZ20 billion leaky home problem, involving up to 90,000 residential units. A seriously degraded development / construction culture created by the politically induced housing bubbles, put 61 Finance Companies to the wall , impairing $8.5 billion and 239,000 deposits. The recent Christchurch earthquake illustrated clearly the massive systemic failures of local government, The writer explained just some of these failures within a recent article Christchurch: A Bureaucratically Buggered City.

So the obvious question is – how come New Zealand’s Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith got it all so wrong?

First – the National Party is historically not the natural party of reform in New Zealand. The Labour Party is. Indeed Dr Smiths RMA reform proposals are of such a poor quality, they would be more suited to an earlier National Government led by Sir Robert Muldoon, that put New Zealand to the wall in 1984. Dr Smith is clearly intent in taking this country back to the failed British style Town & Country Planning (dressed up as “spacial planning”) and central government direction and control.

Second – the current National led Coalition Government did not win the 2008 general election – the tired Labour led Government lost it after nine wasted years. The current National led Coalition Government leader John Key great political attribute is that he is “likeable” and unlike his predecessor Dr Don Brash, lacks policy development and management skills. If one was to ask what this current Government stood for, the only answer on its policy development performance to date would be - “itself”.

Third – for anyone knowledgeable of these local government structural and systemic issues, it was crystal clear that they had to be tackled in a comprehensive way, as the writer outlined within an early 2008 paper “Getting performance urban planning in place”. Early this year, soon after Dr Smith announced this work, it was indicated to the writer this would happen – but it didn’t.

Forth – although the National Party (Conservatives / Republicans) purport to have some affinity with free enterprise and entrepreneurs, in reality it prefers to work closely with business interests seeking protection. It was no accident that Connal Townsend of the Property Council was appointed to the Urban Technical Advisory Group and too, professionals with no actual industry experience as developers / wealth creators. Mr Townsends members would be delighted with the “bureaucratic mush” generated, as they will know Dr Smiths proposals will go nowhere. This group with other business interests, led the flawed local government amalgamation of Auckland – repeating the amalgamation mistakes of Christchurch of 20 years ago. Little wonder Christchurch’s gross annual median household income is $NZ52,000 while Auckland’s is $NZ68,000.

It is the oldest political trick in the book, in that if politicians aim to do nothing with an issue, they take the “confuse them and lose them” approach. The able Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie explained this old trick to journalists recently (refer YouTube - Governor Christie explaining political clarity to journalists for a little light relief).

Clearly – Chris Christie is in politics to do a job – Nick Smith is in politics for a job.

Finally – the question needs to be asked – can anything be salvaged out of the “bureaucratic mush” the New Zealand Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith has generated?

The answer to that depends on whether New Zealanders demand performance from their politicians. Politicians are a reflection of us.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

SCOOP COVERAGE: CHRISTCHURCH MOSQUES TERROR ATTACK


Gordon Campbell: On Reforming Parliament’s Toxic Culture

It would be nice to think Parliament was a forum where rationality ruled – and where policies are raised and evaluated in terms of their contribution to the greater good. Obviously, it isn’t like that... More>>

Historic Assualt Allegation: Parliamentary Service Staff Member Stood Down
Rt Hon Trevor Mallard said today: “I do not want to cut across any employment or possible police investigations, but I am satisfied that the Parliamentary Service has removed a threat to the safety of women working in the Parliamentary complex." More>>


 

PM And FinMin's Post-Cab: Mental Health Inquiry And Budget Responsibility

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was joined by Minister of Finance Grant Robertson for the last post-cabinet press conference before Thursday's budget. The Government will also announce its delayed response to the mental health inquiry this week. More>>

Budget: New Service For Young People Leaving Care

The Wellbeing Budget contains funding to build a new nation-wide Transition Support Service which is expected to help around 3,000 young people over the next four years after it starts on July 1. More>>

ALSO:

Children's Commissioner: Too Many Youths On Remand In Secure Facilities

It is unacceptable that young people are being remanded to youth detention facilities on charges that have not been proven, Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft says. More>>

ALSO:

Media Fund: New Alliance For Local Democracy Reporting

The pilot will see eight journalists recruited to provide local democracy news to a wide array of media. Funding will come from the RNZ /NZ On Air Innovation Fund, a one-off $6m fund announced last year. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Coal’s Negative Message To The School Protest

As schoolkids around the world commited to another round of protest action against climate change, the re-election of (a) the Morrison government in Australia and (b) the Modi government in India have been a kick in the teeth for future generations. More>>

ALSO:

Fatal 2018 Crash: Police Officer Should Not Have Engaged In Pursuit

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that a Police officer should not have tried to stop or pursue a car thought to contain young people in Palmerston North on 28 May 2018. More>>

ALSO:

New Poverty Targets: Goals Overlook 174000 Children In Worst Poverty

Child Poverty Action Group is pleased to see the Government set ambitious 10-year targets for child poverty reduction, but we are disappointed not to see a target set for improving thousands of young lives where the worst of poverty is found. More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

  • PARLIAMENT
  • POLITICS
  • REGIONAL
 
 

InfoPages News Channels