For months the bureaucrats
destroying Cantabrians’ spirits “managing” Christchurch’s recovery have successfully avoided addressing the growing elephant in the room: there is simply not enough residential-zoned land in Christchurch.
There is not enough residential-zoned land in Christchurch because the planners have zoned the city that way—ring-fenced, locked down tight, build only where you’re told—and won’t be letting anything like an earthquake change their tiny minds.
It was bad enough before the earthquake. But at a time when good houses and safe residential land in Christchurch have never been more in demand, it has now become disastrous. So disastrous that folk with good houses on bad land in red-zoned areas of Christchurch face demolishing their good houses--or trucking them to Dunedin or Timaru—instead of being able to relocate them on the good land that exists in abundance around Christchurch, but which the planning arseholes have deemed off limits.
All this would be thuggish and incompetent enough. The truly bizarre thing here however is that this is not news to anyone but Roger Sutton, i.e., the uber-bureaucrat appointed by Earthquake Czar Gerry Brownlee precisely to “coordinate” and cut through regulatory restrictions on recovery like this.
It turns out however that Brownlee’s favourite uber-bureaucrat wouldn’t know his arse from his elbow—or at least, claims to have never heard of problems like this. “The first I heard of [these] difficulties was today,” he told TV1’s Close Up yesterday.
The man is either incompetent or uncaring.
Get the hell out of the way.
PS: Eric Crampton has more, and in a much more measured tone. I can only commend him for his restraint.
UPDATE 1: At the Cantabrians Unite Facebook page Hugh Pavletich invites us to
compare the Roger Sutton on the Close Up clip with the same guy back February 2011 getting those overhead powerlines through to New Brighton when he was CEO of Orion. The sad reality is that Sutton is having a very hard time indeed under Bruiser Brownlee, who has turned the CERA exercise in to a bureaucratic shambles. The focus of CERA with Sutton leading it from the outset with a small competent team (say around 6) should have been to sort out the Christchurch Council. Sadly the low wattage guys Key and Brownlee were never bright enough to see that. To understand why - one needs to read the Vanity Fair article on the failed Merrill Lynch "The Blundering Herd" - which shaped Key. Key is in essence a corporate bureaucrat himself, who couldn't solve a problem if he tried.
UPDATE 2: Yes, let’s be honest, bozos like these bastards are making every city in the country unaffordable—even without our own earthquakes! As developer Olly Newland says today, “building reasonably priced housing is a dying business, strangled by regulation.”
UPDATE 3: Bill English knows this. He told a Christchurch audience last week:
having affordable housing in Christchurch will be the single biggest determinant of the population of this city in the next 10 years because housing affordability in New Zealand is way out of line ...
"In Christchurch we have an opportunity to create affordable housing and that will certainly attract people.
"With respect to the business community, the planning processes, in particular up until recently, have lacked a strong focus on who actually rebuilds the city.
"It's not the planners ... what rebuilds cities are investors who will take risks….”
He knows it. But he and his colleagues are doing nothing about it.
UPDATE 4: Commenter Mark, who I know knows the field, reckons I’ve been unfairly harsh about Roger Sutton, and misdirecting my anger about high land costs and restrictions on relocating homes:
Lack of subdividable land is not a huge problem in Christchurch. There is a significant amount of relatively cheap land around. If you took away all zoning rules overnight, it might decrease prices a little, but not significantly.
What drives the cost up is a complex and lengthy resource consenting process, high engineering standards in terms of stormwater treatment etc, not to mention new (very conservative) seismic requirements for land and foundations…
Not to mention consent costs, reserve contributions, development levies etc., ad nauseum…
I think the "problem" Sutton was professing ignorance of was not lack of land (because I too am unaware of that problem), but the covenants that private developers have against relocating homes.
On this, Eric responds:
I agree that the covenants are what some people want, and they shouldn't be interfered with. But I can't see how we'd have covenants on pretty much all new sections if we had easier processes for opening up new sections for development.
More in the comments.