Tuesday, 8 March 2011

110,000 Christchurch home-owners need the grey ones to get the hell out of the way [updated]

Builders say it is vital that rebuilding in Christchurch begins immediately.  Christchurch will never rebuild this decade if all reconstruction must wait for council assessors, council inspectors, and all builders must sit on their hands while they wait for the council’s monopoly builder-of-choice, Fletcher Building, to give them a ring.

Why should the productive have to wait for the unproductive in order to get permission to produce their own rebuilding programme?  Christchurch builders are already raring to go, and around 110,000 Christchurch home-owners need to them to.

That’s a lot of work to be done. And a lot of builders and home-owners will want to get going.

Instead they have to sit and wait—and even when they’re ready to get going they’ll still have to sit and wait: Wait for council inspectors and council planners to go through the time consuming process of considering whether enough paperwork has been supplied by hard-pressed applicants before they deign to allow a Building Consent or a Resource Consent to be granted. (Not to mention the time and expense and wasted resources in producing all that paperwork, which in quantity alone is orders of magnitude more than it was even ten years ago.)

But Minister Brownlee could change the situation in a stroke with no diminution at all of building quality. And in Christchurch he has the power to do it:

  • Immediately release land on the city fringe to allow affordable housing and temporary housing to accommodate those 10,000 home-owners,and show them the council means business in helping them.
  • BUILDING CONSENTS: a proposal already exists in the Department of Building and Housing to take work off hard-pressed council building inspectors (and risk from Christchurch ratepayers) and make use of the expertise of the building and insurance industries instead.
    Insurers would study the plans, issue their own consents, and indemnify the builder for any problems that occur. And if a problem did occur, the insurer would deal with the homeowner and fix the problem—without sticking their hand in the ratepayers’ pocket.
    All the council would do would be to identify where the house would go, how high and wide it would be, and what services would hook up to it (or what on-site provisions would be built).
    And the average $15,000 per new house currently spent in council inspections and applications (not to the mention the time involved) would be spent much more efficiently than it is now.
  • RESOURCE CONSENTS: Instead of the present process that will see town planners holding up home-owners for months (a process that would test the patience of Sisyphus and the money bags of Croesus), council (or Brownlee) could set up “Small Consents Tribunals” for all work requiring Resource Consents valued at less than, say, $400,000. Tribunals that would be as informal and efficient as Disputes Tribunals, able to issue a decision immediately based on simple “no bullshit” principles.
    It would be very easy to get this ball rolling.
    First, enact a codification of basic common law principles such as the Coming to the Nuisance Doctrine and rights to light and air and the like.
    Second, register on all land titles (as voluntary restrictive covenants) the basic “no bullshit” provisions of District Plans (stuff like height-to-boundary rules, density requirements and the like).
    The Consents Tribunals would consider your small project on the basis of the codified common law principles and the voluntary restrictive covenants on your title, and home-owners should be able to reach agreement in an afternoon.

The Christchurch earthquake is unprecedented. It’s a $20 billion earthquake in a city of just 400,000 people—and unprecedentedly small number people to bear such a problems.

It’s been said often enough that the Christchurch earthquake is a “game changer.” So let’s see some of the game being changed, and have the grey ones help people rebuild instead of hinder them.

There are around 110,000 Christchurch home-owners who need things to change. And soon.

UPDATE:  High-profile Christchurch business-owner Antony Gough is heading up a group of central-city business- and property-owners who want access to their buildings and a say in what happens to them. The way things are going now, he says this morning in The Press, politicians and search-and-rescue are enjoying full and unfettered access to the whole central city while central city property-owners are still excluded.

_QuoteIf you’re a politician from Wellington … you go wherever you want. If you’re a search and rescue or someone from overseas the town’s your oyster… [but] if you’re one of those dirty capitalists who actually own the property or or a shopkeeper or an office person, don’t you come near it or we will put you in jail if you’re seen in town.
    That’s the wrong attitude because it won’t be search and rescue who
put the city back together.

If this continues, he says “there’s a real risk we’ll get flight from the city”—with Christchurch capitalists leading the stampede to the exits—“and it will never come back.”

These are the people who will put the city together again. If they get some certainty and the shackles come off.

There is now a shortfall of around 435,000 square metres of office space in the central area, and Gough and his groups suggest council can do three things immediately that will get the rebuild under way—relaxing things that they presently prohibit:

  • allow the consolidation of land titles to make better use of land and allow economies of scale to be enjoyed;
  • relax development rules on carparking that take resources away from creating new useable space and accommodation;
  • “development contributions” should be removed immediately from new residential and commercial projects to make them cheaper

That’s the right attitude.

[Thanks Warwick D. for the story]


  1. If only..
    Common sense (and common law), and big government don't mix. Just forget about it Pete. This whole thing is rapidly turning into a stinking socialist quagmire. Just waiting for the govt to dip its fingers into our collective pockets one way or another, to create yet another edifice to communism.

  2. If a new house was completed every 3 days given 240 work days per annum and 10,000 new houses needed...14 years more or less!

  3. The communities should set up Home owners Associations as are the norm now in the US and let them deal with resource consents.
    The model is Body Corporates in High Rise apartments.
    For some reason self governance in vertical communities is OK but in horizontal communities is a no-no.

  4. there was a letter in the Nelson Mail stating the same thing for Nelson to capitalise on the refugee migration, if the TDC or NCC get rid of development levies, they will have 1000 new residences to sponge off for the future. Perhaps arguments need to made in terms of building the grey ones empires, to boost their ever growing need to feel impotant

  5. I am wondering if we could put out a call to the USA for tradespeople?

    Firstly they had a massive housing bubble, and now have plenty of tradespeople sitting idle.

    Now of course you will get the usual, 'they are stealing our jobs' mantra here.

    However could we not team up these overseas people with a young NZer as their apprentice, which would facilitate skills transfer to NZ?

  6. And for more of the right attitude, see this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gY_zoP-sA6Y

    Especially aposite is the section with the brewery founder, entrepreneur Alasdair Cassels at around 3:05.

    I loved this quote:
    Interviewer: They [the grey ones] are talking about just pushing heritage buildings over.
    Cassels: We won't be doing that! We'll make it [as] strong as any building in town, and we'll preserve it.


    Interviewer: Is [rebuilding] going to be possible?
    Cassels: Yes it is.
    Interviewer: What makes you so sure?
    Cassels: Because we've got the spirit to do it!

    These are men of production. We need far more of them and far fewer taxing, clipboard-waving leeches and saps on the spirits of men.

  7. Good on that Gough. And good ideas PC.

  8. Here is an exchange with the Mayor of Tasman District Council asking if development levy remission would be considered to help CHCH refugees relocate to Nelson/ Tasman.

    Can you please advise me what your respective councils are doing to make the relocation and resettling of recent arrivals from CHCH to improve the likelihood of them remaining on a longer term basis.
    As you both well know, increased populations increase the economic livelihood of any community> In order for Nelson & Tasman to meet some of the wish-list items that so fill our local newspaper, we must increase the rate take, and simply slugging existing ratepayers is not an equitable solution. Surely you would both agree that increasing the rate-payer pool would be more beneficial, for not just the rates income but also the wider community.
    One of the biggest impediments for the recent arrivals from CHCH to relocating here would be financial. Why not make their decision easier, by suspending development levies for a period of 2 years. The capacity is there for our builders to pick up the demand before the rebuild gets into full swing in CHCH (the September quake showing things are going to take 6-12 months to work through before claims and work orders etc can get underway).
    The tragic events of Feb 22 have offered Nelson/ Tasman an opportunity at growth, the question is, are the local Councils bold enough to capitalise on it, or will they remain petty in their nit-picking, and try to stifle growth, and impede the refugees of CHCH rebuilding their lives in our beautiful region.

    Dear K,

    The actions of Tasman District Council are two fold. First we are doing anything we can to help the people of Christchurch and the Christchurch City Council recover from their recent tragic earthquake, as I would like them to do for us if the roles were reversed. Second, if people from Christchurch wish to relocate to Tasman we will do anything we can to help them relocate. Unfortunately if we waive development contributions that simply increases the already significant cost of development onto existing Tasman ratepayers.

    Yours sincerely

    Richard Kempthorne

    Shouldn't have expected much else from a numbnut. No long term vision.


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