Guest post by Stephen Berry
Auckland Council’s attempt to block the creation of three Special Housing Areas can only be described as blackmail, to which the government should start playing hardball.
The council has rejected plans to set up three Special Housing Areas in Huapai because it expects central government to assist the funding of transport infrastructure to connect them. But it is not the government’s but the Council’s responsibility to fund the costs of connecting new housing areas to the power, water and road networks.
The developers of housing areas actually pay for the roads and water pipes so half the job of the Council is already done for them. If they are a bit short, then it is perfectly reasonable to borrow money, by issuing bonds for example, to fund the connection of the new project to existing utilities, and then pay it off with the increased rates revenue that will result. [The Texas MUD model is one such that could be emulated – Ed.]
Part of the problem is that Auckland Council doesn’t restrict its function to its core role, which makes it harder to pay for the things Council actually exists to fund. Right now for example Len Brown is considering a $190 million wish list he has been given by the Independent Maori Statutory Board. This request includes funding for economic development, education and development of iwi assets. Were the Council sticking to its core responsibilities, Brown would be giving the Maori Statutory Board a simple “no.”
I suspect the real reason the Council is fighting back against these Special Housing Areas is because of the compact city ideology of Penny Hulse. Despite the overwhelming evidence showing that restricting Auckland’s growth is causing stratospheric price inflation, Ms. Hulse keeps her head in the undeveloped land of outer Auckland. [Another reason is she sees a chance of exerting political pressure to make taxpayers begin footing the bill for Len’s train sets – Ed.]
Minister Nick Smith says the Government has the power to issue its own consents for the Special Housing Areas. If the Council continues its game of blackmail, then I certainly hope he does.