Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Twyford proposes ending city’s ring-fence [updated]


Very rarely do politicians deserve berating in the morning and praise in the afternoon. So take a bow Labour Party – in calling for the Goverment to abolish Auckland’s city limits, your housing spokesman Phil Twyford has kicked a major goal for your team:

Labour wants the Government to abolish Auckland's city limits to get people out of cars, caravans, garages and tents.
    Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford said the urban growth boundary had to go because it has fuelled the housing crisis and people would not be forced into bad circumstances if the Government acted.
    "The Government should rule out any possibility of an urban growth boundary in Auckland Council's Unitary Plan if it is serious about fixing the housing crisis," Twyford said.
    "Over 25 years the urban growth boundary hasn't prevented sprawl, but it has helped drive land and housing costs through the roof. It has contributed to a housing crisis that has allowed speculators to feast off the misery of Generation Rent, and forced thousands of families to live in garages and campgrounds," Twyford said.
    "Labour's plan will free up the restrictive land use rules that stop the city growing up and out. It will stop land prices skyrocketing, and put the kibosh on landbankers and speculators."

All very true, and all of a piece with what Twyford said back in November: that the cause of this housing crisis is planning rules. (Yes, he’s been improving fast.) He has other thoughts as well, that

the Government use its upcoming National Policy Statement on housing and urban land use to … free up density rules to accelerate Auckland's ability to grow housing supply both out and up.


to use new methods of funding infrastructure so that Councils don't have to lump costs on all ratepayers and on developers, who are stuck paying high development contributions that they pass on to home buyers in a lump sum.

So, all good and thoughtful stuff!

Mind you, National’s housing spokesthings said much the same good things when they were in opposition, and we’ve seen how little they’ve done since. And Twyford’s preferred solution is still, somehow, commissioning the building of unprofitable state houses that will somehow show a profit pay for them.

And just freeing up the boundary in the new Plan isn’t going to immediately open up land anyway; not until the planners contempate the zoning for the newly “released” land.

So perhaps, in the interim, given this emergency we could resurrect the presumption that anyone with any site anywhere (both up and out) should have the automatic right to build at least one (or one more) house on any given site, provided only that rights to neighbour’s light and air and sunlight are protected.

And in the longer term, it’s to get rid altogether of the failed planning regime and the Resource Management Act that is their talisman, and repair to the common law it has long buried.

And in the meantime, at least, give thanks that one politician at least is prepared to contemplate solutions to his portfolio that might not seem to fit his ideological persuasion, but will actually help those he claims to represent.

[Hat tip Hugh Pavletich]

UPDATE: You can sign a petition here (from the Taxpayers Union) calling on the Government to adopt Labour’s policy on abolishing the Auckland Metropolitan Urban Limit. The more people who sign the petition, the more pressure on National to do the right thing and sign up to Labour’s policy:




  1. One can only hope that his colleague Phil Goff will take this on board as he could be the next Auckland Mayor.

  2. This can only be good - National will nick this idea, Nick notwithstanding.

  3. It is already apparent Goff will suck up to anyone, including the govt, to get a shot at the mayoralty.


  4. I wouldn't get too excited about Twyford's latest idea, given his track record. Even a stopped clock is correct twice a day.

    B Whitehead

  5. So now Labour is arguing against National from the RIGHT

  6. The problem is speculators using their 3 - 6 - 12+ houses as collateral to buy and flick more properties, in many cases not even bothering to rent them out in the meantime. Freeing up more land will not solve this problem.

    1. What a stupid assertion. If speculators can make money from buying houses and flicking them, sometimes without bothering to rent them, it's only possible because supply is so out of whack with demand that prices keep rising. You are completely reversing cause and effect. It's not a "problem" at all, it's a symptom of a problem - and a clear market signal of a shortage. The only solution lies in freeing up the artificial barriers to supply.

    2. You don't get it Mark. Houses cannot possibly be built as fast as speculators can buy them. Building more houses will simply mean more houses owned by the wealthiest speculators with the most collateral.

      Speaking of 'artificial barriers to supply' there are up to 30,000 empty homes in Auckland due to speculation.

    3. Barry - It's hard to believe you're actually arguing that buying houses and leaving them vacant is in speculators interests, *regardless* of the supply of those houses in relation to demand. The contention is so self-evidently idiotic I'm not going to say anything further, except to note it surpasses the 'broken window fallacy' (the idea that destruction benefits the total economy) in it's inability to see the overall picture.


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