Saturday, 20 June 2015

What’s an SHA, and what’s it doing in my park?

Guest post by SDR

So what exactly are these 'Special Housing Areas' (or in 'modern PC acronym speak' - SHAs), that are continuously being bandied about by every local and governmental mouthpiece for whom the media fixatedly quote or provide a microphone?

Apparently, they are the magic panacea for the growing demand for housing throughout Auckland and many other growing centres within the country (whether affordable or otherwise remains to be seen).

According to the Auckland Council:

''Special Housing Areas are a tool provided for within the Council's agreement with the Government, the Auckland Housing Accord, and accompanying Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas (HASHA) legislation to boost Auckland's housing supply....By increasing the number of new sites and dwellings in Auckland, the council and the government aims to make housing more accessible and affordable."

Right, well that was as clear as mud, so let's go back a step to the actual Act that gave birth to this 'being' or 'phenomenon'.

Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Act 2013: 
This Act is administered by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment -

If that ministry sounds familiar, it’s because it houses people so important, covering all those important facets of the national economy, that you as taxpayer need to provide them with bicycle parks, hair straighteners and $140,000 television sets, to enjoy in their capacities as directors of the country’s innovation and employment.

Of special note: councils have the right to recommend areas of land to the Minister for designation as a SHA. (But this doesn’t mean they have to actually own it.)

Righto. So what’s the purpose of the Act?

The purpose of the Act is to enhance housing affordability by facilitating an increase in land and housing supply in certain regions or districts, listed in Schedule 1, identified as having housing supply and affordability issues.

Well, that sounds well-meaning enough, but why should there be a shortage of housing? Last time I looked NZ still had the metric equivalent of the approximately 104,000 sq. miles that I learnt by rote back in my school days - and these clever people at the Ministry and council need to 'find' land to build houses on??

Something surely wrong somewhere.

So what’s in Part 2?

Part 2 deals with resource consents and plan changes, and variations to proposed plans in relation to qualifying developments in special housing areas, and lots of “empowering” authorised agencies to accept and to consider resource-consent applications, and to deal with proposed plan variations all at the same time.

In other words, it’s a legalised “fast-track” for selected developers developments.  The very government agencies and boffins who, over the last decade or two, got together only to disallow people to build houses on their own land, or to sell to people who wanted to buy them, are now required to get together, by law, to make these new houses possible. (And quickly please, there are political careers on the line here.)

Under the RMA 1991 (written by Labour and enacted by National), countless proposed developments, both residential and commercial, were never built due to the the massive holding costs and compliance costs and delays and uncertainties placed on the long-suffering developers while they waited for months and years for local and national governmental boffins to grant approval for them to start work. That is, the owner of the land and the dream was kept needlessly waiting and paying extortionately for the privilege of providing a product that other people needed and wanted to buy.

To be honest, from recently driving around Auckland from Pokeno to Silverdale I would have to say these same boffins, under the SHA legislation, must have got it sussed now, ( or else there are just a lot more of them), because dwellings of all sorts are sprouting up in paddocks, along motorways, in Race Courses and above your local shops.

Unfortunately, nobody can afford them.

However, lets take a look back at what used to happen, shall we? And by “used to” I mean just over a century ago, before town planners existed.

" In the first ten years of the twentieth century the population of metropolitan Auckland grew by more than fifty percent (from 67,226 to 102,676). Eighty-two percent of that increase took place in the suburbs, where members of Auckland's aspiring middle class built up an intense demand for sections of upwards of half an acre on which they could build villas in a semi-rural setting yet within easy reach of the city.
    Particularly was this so in the case of the warm upland suburbs of Epsom, Green Lane, Remuera and Ellerslie. Bankart, by this time John Logan Campbell's most trusted adviser, drew to his master's attention how valuable as residential land the ungifted portion of the One Tree Hill Estate had become.This view the
Herald confirmed in 1904 when it reported how "admirably suited" was the eastern portion of the estate for subdivision. There, 'beautiful residential sites' were wonderfully convenient: five minutes away lay the Green Lane railway station through which twenty trains passed each day; and at a walking distance of ten minutes or so was the Epsom tramway terminus from which trams left every quarter hour.
        Campbell did not need to be talked into subdividing and selling parts of One Tree Hill. That was one of the investment options he had kept in mind for the estate ever since he bought it over fifty years before. And so in 1904, … he made his decision to subdivide the ungifted portion of the estate. It was 'surveyed and cut up into sections' and (according to Bankart) over the next few years ' as opportunity offered, the market was fed and roads were made, with result that sufficient cash was obtained enabling me to clear the Estate.’- *

Good old John Logan Campbell, the “father of Auckland.”

In the following years the sales of land continued. However, for Campbell, one particular ten-acre block, which contained the old historic One Tree Hill Homestead that his family had used as their summer retreat, was only sold after 'most serious consideration’:

Yet 'not without some sentimental pangs.....I made the sale, but the urgency of wiping out the heavy mortgage on the estate dictated the necessity of putting the sentiment in my pocket along with the cash for the purchase money and let them fight it out together. *

Look at that, exactly the same problems then as we hear about daily now - but did you spot several important differences? :

  • Not one government or council agency is mentioned,
  • Not  one unproductive, obstructive boffin put his oar in
  • Not a single acronym in sight!!!!

And so began without fanfare the preparation of land for so many of the houses that so many Aucklanders still desire so much.

Just imagine that, one private property owner free to make his own decisions in his own time; capable of identifying a rise in market demand himself; an honest producer free to deal with the world for the benefit of himself and the honest customers who valued, and were prepared to pay him, for what he could provide;and a man free to pocket the reward for his hard work and the joy and satisfaction of his own accomplishment.

Sir John Logan Campbell: a one-man 'Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment..

I wonder what he would think about the morass today.

Or what’s been happening in Cornwall Park.

* Quotes from : 'The Father and His Gift, John Logan Campbell's Later Years' by R.C.J.Stone

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