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Productivity Commission’s Report highlights broken system

Media Release
29 March 2017

Productivity Commission’s Report highlights a broken planning system

Property Council welcomes the release of the Productivity Commission’s Better Urban PlanningReport as independent proof that New Zealand’s planning system can no longer address the ever-growing challenges of our cities.

Chief Executive Connal Townsend believes the Report provides the starting point for a national conversation about the future of our cities’ planning system.

Mr Townsend says, “We need to clarify how the built environment interacts with the natural environment. This is critical for the future development of our cities and the protection of the natural environment.

“The planning system touches all New Zealanders, our core values and of course our unique natural environment, which we must continue to protect and treasure. Any conversation must be inclusive and acknowledge that cities are important for the economic and social prosperity of New Zealanders. They also have cultural and environmental elements that are important as well.”

Mr Townsend highlights that whilst the Report recommends a wide range of reform options Government must be careful not to cherry pick.

“If Government wants to implement the reforms, they need to do so as a coherent package.

“As we’ve seen with the Resource Management Act, constant tinkering by successive Governments has resulted in a fragmented Act that does not achieve the desired outcomes for the environment or development.

“We need to understand there are no quick fixes. Let’s take our time, explore the options, and not rush change for the sake of change. We need an integrated approach to review these options. We are calling for a national dialogue to build consensus across stakeholders and the political spectrum, so that bold change is well considered and implemented.”

A key approach which Mr Townsend supports is exploring whether a new planning act, which provides a distinction between the built and natural environments, could work.

“This could provide greater clarity about our priorities for the built and natural environment and reduce the tensions between them, thus delivering better outcomes.”

The use of regional spatial plans, he argues, could also provide a 30-50-year vision for a region.

“We’ve been strong supporters of the Auckland Plan, which provides the 30-year vision for the city. Rolling these out to the rest of the regions will provide certainty, not only for the property industry, but also communities, iwi, and central and local government about the future of these regions.

“One of the success stories of the Auckland Unitary Plan process was the Independent Hearings Panel. I am pleased to see the Productivity Commission recommend rolling this out across the rest of the country. Using panels reduces the time it takes for planning documents to become operative and potentially deliver better quality plans that will enable more optimal outcomes for our cities.

“The Report provides an opportunity to undertake a bold and forward thinking review of our planning system. We cannot let our 21st century cities be held back by 20th century thinking that is no longer fit for purpose,” says Mr Townsend.


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