Scale, vision and an overhaul of planning legislation needed to address housing problem
19 June 2015
The Productivity Commissions comprehensive report into land for housing underlines the need for a major revision of New Zealands overall planning framework. In the meantime, Aucklands housing shortfall could be addressed with a new compact greenfield satellite city aligned to the rail network, funded off land value improvement and financed with private capital, says Stephen Selwood CEO of the New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development.
The Commissions report demonstrates just how imbedded the many challenges are which over two decades have seen New Zealands housing affordability plummet.
The common thread tying together each of the major issues identified by the Commission regulation, infrastructure funding and delivery, spatial planning, public engagement and central and local government coordination is New Zealands dysfunctional planning and governance framework as set out in the Resource Management Act, Local Government Act and the Land Transport Management Act.
The Acts were conceived separately and never designed to work together. As a result, transport decisions are made which inhibit urban development. Land use decisions are made which add to congestion. We have local government objectives which conflict with central government policies and central government directives which heap costs onto financially constrained local bodies.
The three Acts the RMA, LGA and LTMA must be subject to a first principles review with the objective of harmonising planning and decision making across New Zealands two levels of government.
Getting the incentives and objectives across government right will help councils and the Crown align their objectives, ensuring above all that sufficient land is available and ready for development.
Thats going to take some time, which is why the Commissions call for an urban development agency is so important.
As we design more effective governance, planning and legal frameworks to meet the needs of future generations at the national level, an urban redevelopment agency can seek out a nearer term response for the urgent housing need in Auckland.
A public agency that is market focused and geared to engage private capital, innovation and expertise is critical to bridging the gap between public resource management activities and property market needs.
Acting on behalf of both the Crown and Auckland Council, an urban development agency must be empowered to, at the very least, aggregate land to enable development at scale.
The agency could engage the development community to target a major new city on greenfield land, proximate to rail where land value appreciation can be leveraged.
A very successful initiative like this is underway in Springfield, just outside Brisbane.
There, a city the size of Pukekohe but with a population equivalent to Hamilton is under construction. Because it has been masterplanned to accommodate that level of density, rather than retrofitted around an existing incompatible urban form, much better transport, environment and social outcomes are being targeted.
Committing to tens of thousands of new homes over the next two or three decades, built to modern tastes and consistent with expectations for quality public transport, urban living and sustainable design, and urban development agency working in partnership with major private developers can deliver the types of outcomes both the Government and Auckland Council, as well as residents, demand, Selwood says.