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City Labels Housing Proposals “Fundamentally Flawed”

Hamilton City Council says Government moves to increase housing stock by allowing for much more intensification are “fundamentally flawed”.

In fact, Hamilton City Councillors are so concerned with what is being proposed they have unanimously agreed the Bill should be withdrawn, noting the proposed law change is in “direct conflict” with Council’s strategic growth planning and some of the Government’s own policies.

Council considered its submission today in response to a bi-partisan announcement last month from the Government and the National Party. The changes, announced by Minister of Housing Megan Woods and Minister for the Environment David Parker, aim to allow more homes, including more affordable homes, to be built in high-growth areas.

Under the proposals, scheduled to come into effect by August 2022, people will be able to build up to three homes of up to three storeys on most Hamilton city sites, without needing a resource consent.

Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate again warned the proposals will change the face of the city for ever.

Today Hamilton City Councillors and senior planning staff agreed, raising a raft of serious issues to put before Parliament’s Environment Select Committee.

General Manager Growth Blair Bowcott said planning staff across the region believed the Bill has been rushed through with no detailed analysis, robust engagement or clear understanding of unintended consequences.

Council’s hard-hitting submission says the proposal creates a “fundamental disconnect” between land use and infrastructure planning and has been put together without detailed analysis or any engagement with either local government, iwi or residents of cities and towns potentially impacted, he said.

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“All parties to this joint submission work very, very closely with Government as part of the Future Proof partnership. So it is disappointing these proposals undermine strategic planning partnerships that central government has already committed to,” Bowcott said.

The city’s views are shared by Waipa District and Waikato District Councils, Waikato Regional Council and Waikato-Tainui, with the submission discussed today to be presented as a joint-submission.

The feedback is also aligned to a submission from the Waikato River Authority. The Authority, all four councils and Waikato-Tainui all note the Bill fails to address Te Ture Whaimana o Te Awa o Waikato – the Vision and Strategy for the Waikato River. Planners and legal advisors reiterated this is the most important and powerful planning instrument across the region, but that the Government proposals completely failed to take it into account.

“The content of the Bill is irreconcilable with Te Ture Whaimana unless there is a very substantial central Government investment in wastewater and stormwater infrastucture within the Waikato Region,” the submission said.

Southgate said all Councillors accepted there was a dire need for more housing in Hamilton. She believed there was absolutely a place for denser housing in Hamilton “when it was done well.”

“We’ve seen it done well elsewhere and that’s exactly what we want for our city and I think that’s what many people want. But tragically, allowing three-storey buildings to go up like wildfire across the city will not deliver better homes. The intent might be good, but there will be perverse and very poor outcomes from these proposals if they go ahead,” she said.

“Nor is there any mention of the elephant in the room. The Bill makes it near impossible to sensibly plan and try to fund infrastructure upgrades that massive housing intensification will drive. Given the costs of that infrastructure, which will land on our ratepayers, I find that astonishing.”

District Plan Committee Chair Ryan Hamilton said the Bill, as proposed, was a “blanket mandate” that was simply not fit-for-purpose for Hamilton.

“It completely undermines significant work we have under way, at the request of the Government, to deliver more homes which deliver social, cultural, environmental and economic well-beings.”

“No-one is disputing we want and need more houses in Hamilton and we’re laser-focused on that already. We don’t need an approach forced upon us that might work for Auckland but work nowhere else. We need something that will work for Hamilton and will contribute to a thriving central city, great transport access and well-planned and funded infrastructure upgrades.”

Hamilton said he was heartened the city’s response was part of a wider, regional rejection of a “massive and fundamental change to planning rules that seemed to come out of nowhere.”

“We need all Waikato political leaders to stand up and support Hamilton’s resolute and unanimous opposition to the Bill in its proposed form and I hope they do that.”

The submission must be received by Parliament’s Environment Select Committee by 16 November.

A copy of the full submission is here.

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