Tuesday 20 January 2015

So they’re “reforming” the RMA again?

In the middle of last year John Key told a roomful of council numpties that if he was returned to government after the election,

one of our top priorities will be to progress the Resource Management Act amendments that we’ve had to park for the time being.
    Our changes to the RMA will tackle housing affordability by freeing-up land supply and making it easier to build, extend, and renovate houses.
   Consenting will be sped up and simplified.

Since these same promises have been made every single time the Resource Management Act has been amended – right back to Nick Smith’s first tinkering with it back in the late 90s – and right up to the Key Government’s last chocolate-coated turd -- I won’t be holding my breath for Nick Smith’s promised announcement tomorrow any more than I have been for the last twenty years of promises.

The problems have been known about long enough – the inability to build new houses in NZ cities at a price new home-owners can afford and at which spec builders can make a profit –nearly  all of them stemming from the Local Government Act’s encouragement for council’s to grow like cancer, and the Resource Management Act’s virtual removal of property rights in land.

Yet I can guarantee that neither will be addressed tomorrow.


Instead, if we are to take Amy Adam’s tepid 7-point plan from last year as the template , all we can expect is more flaccid bullshit like “a national planning template” which will allegedly create “a simplified planning framework” (yeah right); “streamlined” costs and processes (d’you believe that at all?); district plans now available online (on Skynet yet?); “better consideration of natural hazards in planning” (expect more building in more places to be banned); and finally, district plans that are more “proactive” (Galt save us!).

Not to mention (as if we will be able to forget) requiring council to produce umpteen reports to government and ratepayers on “how they are meeting local environmental, cultural, social and economic needs” (expect new departments for report-writing to emerge); and to “engage better with their communities and local iwi” (a recipe for even more purple dots on your district plan restricting what you can do).

So let’s not get too excited about what Nick Smith might say tomorrow. Or even excited at all.

He’s already dismissed the latest Demographia report showing NZ housing is now among the most unaffordable in the world compared to incomes – dismissed it on the basis of income figures he made up mid-interview.

No wonder, since it would be embarrassing to admit that there has been a 17% decline in affordability since he came on board as Minister, when Auckland Council acknowledged that they already () had a shortfall of 20,000-30,000 dwellings.

Nick the Dick  conveniently mis-read both the Demographia Surveys and the NZ Herald report; in fact there has been a lift in Ak incomes between last year and the previous year.

He knows as well as everyone else that with just 350 houses out of the 39,000 promised, his limp-wristed Housing Accords have failed to date. Says Demographia co-author Hugh Pavletich:

As the Texans would say “He’s all hat and no horse !”
    Where is the “action man” Prime Minister Key promised early 2013 ?
    The Statistics New Zealand building consents numbers tell us all we need to know. On a population basis, Aucklands numbers are a disgrace. The Housing Accords have sadly to date had little impact on building consent trends.
    Greater Christchurch since the first earthquake events had only been “saved” by two important factors: first, the smaller responsive adjoining Counties of Waimakariri and Selwyn; and second, by Doug Martin being bought in by Central Government to the severely dysfunctional Christchurch Council after it lost its Building Consent Accreditation (in itself a remarkable feat of incompetence among many).
    What Dr Smith needs to read is the Government’s own major October 2012 announcement (access via www.PerformanceUrbanPlanning.org ) where, following years of robust research and public discussion, the focii were to be on:

  • Land supply
  • Infrastructure financing
  • Process, and
  • Construction costs

When the above announcement was made, Dr Smith was then in the Sin Bin.
    Prime Minister Key graciously resurrected his political career early 2013 by appointing him Housing Minister.
    Mr Key referred to Dr Smith as “an action man.” [And apparently with a straight face – Ed.] Prime Minister Key omitted to tell us when the “action” was going to happen though ! … refer the Prime Ministers stirring words on YouTube October 2013  … action, action action!!

Do the Housing Accords Dr Smith has entered in to reflect the clear Government policy  announced October 2012 ?
    If the problems were just the RMA, then why could Waimakariri and Selwyn Councils respond so well following the first earthquake events 4 September 2010, while the Christchurch Council was incapable of doing so ?
    Did these massive performance disparities reflect solely on the RMA ?
    We all know the root cause of the housing problems is Local Authorities (made bigger by Sandra Lee’s 2002 reforms in which they were granted a “power of general competence,” and the bigger they are the much, much worse they are) losing control of their costs and starving land supply and financing infrastructure inappropriately (rocking in unjustified Development Levies … has Dr Smith heard of Texas MUDs bond financing of infrastructure ?
    Indeed, this is exactly what the Productivity Commission is exploring at the moment: Why the likes of Waimakariri and Selwyn Councils are responsive, while Christchurch Council is not ?
    I clarified the above matters last night on Jim Mora’s Checkpoint

When are we going to see the ESSENTIAL basic “nuts ‘n bolts research from Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith … as outlined … again … mid 2013 with FOCUS ON RESTORING HOUSING AFFORDABILITY?
    Where are the new affordable starter homes on the fringes of our metros Dr Smith ?

Please read your own Government’s October 2012 major announcement Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith … and KEEP the focus on land supply and infrastructure financing !
    Young and disadvantaged Kiwis deserve better than political waffle.

Read Demographia’s 2015 report here.


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