Nick Smith

Guest Post – Phil Hayward on Auckland and the RMA reforms

by Phil Hayward

The Auckland Unitary Plan Submission process is underway and we should soon know whether it is a charade with outcomes pre-determined and impervious to evidence. The usual suspects are also claiming once again to be able to ‚Äúdebunk‚ÄĚ the latest Demographia Report on housing affordability, and even the government is embarrassed over the dismal ineffectiveness of its trumpeted ‚ÄúHousing Accords‚ÄĚ.

My previous essays on this forum could usefully be read or re-read now by anyone interested in this subject.

The prevalent mythology is that Auckland already sprawls too much at low density, already has built too many roads (and that is why it is congested), is letting the floodgates re-open too much towards more new sprawl and not enough new intensification (60% of growth to be via intensification is the plan), the ramp-up in building now is major, and intensification will provide for affordability.

In fact, Auckland is around 3 times as dense as Boston, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Nashville and dozens of other US cities; is the second densest city in the Anglo New World after Toronto (pop. 6 million); is one of the densest first world urban areas of only 1 million people; is close to Amsterdam’s density and is denser than Lyon, Marseille, the Ruhr Valley and many urban areas in France and Germany, especially those with around 1 million people or less.

We have never actually had US style low density sprawl; very little of our suburban development was ever even ¬ľ acre sections. That always was a ‚Äúdream‚ÄĚ for most, and now nearly every such section has already had townhouses built on what was the backyard. In the USA, suburbs are common with minimum lot size mandates of 1 acre to 4 acres.¬†¬†

Michael Bassett and Luke Malpass (NZ Initiative) ‚ÄúPriced Out: How NZ Lost its Housing Affordability‚ÄĚ (2012) show that NZ and Auckland were during the period from the 1960‚Äôs to the 1980‚Äôs, building as many as twice as many new dwellings as now. Most of that was greenfields suburban development, albeit at considerably higher density than US-style sprawl. We now have congestion problems because there was inadequate planning of road capacity, not because we did the roads we did.

I have estimated from TomTom Traffic index data and Google Earth imagery, that Auckland has 1/3 the highway lane miles and 1/5 the arterial lane miles of Indianapolis, which has a similar population. Indianapolis in the TomTom Traffic Index, scores a congestion delay of 15 minutes per 1 hour of driving at peak (other comparable US cities are similar) versus Auckland‚Äôs 45 minutes. Of course its house price median multiple happens to be stable at around 3 as well, in spite of being truly low density, unlike Auckland. ¬† Read more »

RMA reform will be an uphill battle

Apart from ACT, all political parties have expressed that they are against Nick Smith’s RMA review

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says it will do nothing for house prices in Auckland.

Local authorities wanted a law that was simple and less complex to manage and one that provided better outcomes for communities and economy, Local Govt New Zealand (LGNZ) president Lawrence Yule said today.

LGNZ represents the authorities whose role is to implement the Resource Management Act.

Mr Yule, who is also the Mayor of Hastings, said there was too much process prescribed by the current planning law.

“We need an act that creates more affordable housing, builds jobs and creates business and economic growth, within an environment of managing our natural resources.”

Environment Minister Nick Smith set out 10 areas of reform that will change the way councils carry out planning law.

So, to summarise:

The Green Party have gone all sulky with Genter saying there is absolutely no point working with National on RMA reform as they won’t be listened to.

The Maori party are against it, as they see Maori natural heritage under threat.

NZ First don’t like it because it doesn’t attack real problems, like immigration pressure on house prices and other RMA managed resources.

Peter Dunne’s against it, and I got too bored to understand why, but he’s not on the team.

And Andrew Little has done exactly as I predicted: ¬†he says reform is just a ‘smoke screen’ (I used Trojan Horse) for the government to slide in the legalised rape an pillage of natural resources, all the while selling it as something that will make houses cheaper. Read more »

Will Nick Smith slash and burn the RMA? Or will it be as effective as his housing efforts?

Well, all the talk is positive on Day One…

Environment Minister Nick Smith is planning “the most significant overhaul” to the Resource Management Act (RMA) since its introduction 25 years ago.

The wide-ranging changes were outlined during a speech in Nelson [ last night ], in which Dr Smith said the enormous amount of red tape was delaying the development of new houses, jobs and doesn’t manage resources such as freshwater well.

The RMA governs the use of water, land, air and coast and protects heritage, native plants and animals.

“The Act is not working for New Zealand or New Zealanders. It is making housing too expensive. It is hampering job and export growth. It is stymying much-needed infrastructure,” he says.

“Tinkering with the RMA won’t do. The Act has some fundamental design flaws that require substantial overhaul.”

The Act¬†has become a straight jacket on the economy. ¬†Smith is right in as much that it is too big to fix. ¬†It needs to be started again. ¬† Read more »

Concrete Cancer Coverup: What is industry body telling govt?

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We’ve seen a right palaver as Whaleoil has gradually unpicked and exposed the cover-up in New Zealand’s $400 million concrete industry.

We‚Äôve also exposed how Fonterra‚Äôs $120 million Waitoa UHT plant and the Government‚Äôs $40.6 million Manukau Court Building was supplied dodgy cement that is likely to see those buildings subject to a problem called alkali silica reaction or more commonly known as concrete cancer.¬†¬† Read more »

Special Housing Areas a total failure

The Special Housing Areas are failing and yet nobody is asking why?

The Government’s Auckland Housing Accord aims to relieve the city’s desperate housing shortage with 39,000 new homes, but only 350 residences have so far been built in the plan’s Special Housing Areas, an official has revealed.

Of those, only 20 have been a direct result of the housing accord.

Labour is accusing developers and landbankers of sitting on their hands and watching the value of their land increase instead of working to ease the crisis. Auckland Council has warned it could take action if building does not take place quickly.

I happen to know that the reason is deliberate and the perpetrators aren’t developers and landbankers, it is the¬†Auckland Council.

Council doesn’t want greenfield subdivisions – that’s the polar opposite to their fundamental core beliefs and desires for a compact city. ¬† Read more »

Who is Andrew Little? Ctd – First Speech in Parliament as Leader

Andrew Little became Labour Leader on the 18th of November.

Parliament did not sit until 25th of November, which was Little’s first opportunity to deliver a speech in Parliament.

The speech is here.

Little was highly praised from his own side for taking the fight to National.

His anger or passion shows through, and the left seemed to think that this was some sort of victory. ¬† Read more »

Auckland Council writes Herald on Sunday articles

The issue of Auckland land supply has raised a lot of criticism in the property industry. Only this weekend did the Council top thug Roger Blakeley attempt to point the finger at the market and past Councils for the problem.

We constantly read news stories that are actually spin from Councils and Auckland Council is a master of spinning tall tales.

But part of the problem is that the MSM regurgitates whatever it hears from these lying officials.

On Sunday former director of Harrison and Grierson – Jon Maplesden (now a consultant who represents a large swathe of land developers) came out with a solid sledge at the Herald on Sunday – who had previously reported about the progress that Auckland Council were making on the Housing Accord.

As always the MSM are lazy with their reporting ¬†‚Äčand the Herald on Sunday is no better than the rest of them, writing that there were now 45,000 sections ready to go.

Maplesden wrote back and it couldn’t be more accurate:

‚ÄčShow me the houses

Speaking as an expert in land development, who has spent a lifetime consulting on the subject, l would be interested to know where your information on unbuilt houses came from (New homes to bust land hoarders, November 30). I do not believe ‚Äú45,000 sections in Auckland are sitting there ready to go, with all the connections to water, power and roads – but no houses‚ÄĚ. ¬† Read more »

CONCRETE CANCER COVER-UP, CTD: Mitre 10 caught up in mess

If there is one certain feature of a cover-up it is that once cracks start appearing in the façade, so-called friends will quickly head for the hills.

As I roll out this exclusive WOBH series exposing a concrete cancer cover-up within the $400m concrete industry, I wonder who will stick around, and who will try and do a runner.

I have exposed cement importing company Drymix as being at the center of the controversy. With the Cement and Concrete Association (CCANZ) hooking its wagon up to Drymix, questions are being asked about who else will be caught up in the scandal as Whaleoil unravels this mess.

One such company is Mitre 10 which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary and passed the $1 billion sales mark for the first time.

Questions are being asked about the integrity of the 2014 Mitre 10 Awards, particularly when Drymix was recipient of its 2014 Mitre 10 Building Products Supplier and 2014 Innovation Award for our Super Easy Mix in The Bag Range.

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CONCRETE CANCER COVER-UP CTD: Golden Bay Cement deepens mystery over blending

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The question doing the rounds in the $400 million New Zealand concrete market is whether cement importer Drymix is now trying to drag Golden Bay Cement into the concrete cancer cover-up.

Golden Bay Cement, 100% owned by Fletcher Building Limited, is currently in the middle of ‚Äėsupplying a special cement blend for use in precast, grouting and in situ items‚Äô for Auckland‚Äôs Waterview Connection.

Golden Bay Cement also happens to have the only large-scale cement blending facility in New Zealand, based on Plummer Street at the Ports of Auckland.

Why is this important? ¬† Read more »

State housing asset sale? Or stock rationalisation?

I fear National have thus far under estimated the left and the media’s ability to turn what is in fact a rationalisation of the Housing New Zealand stock, into something that looks like an asset sale by stealth.

Labour has produced documents¬†which it says proves the Government’s been quietly planning [the sale of 22,000] for 18 months.

The Government owns around 68,000 state homes and Finance Minister Bill English appears to have signed off the sale of thousands of them on Monday at the weekly Cabinet meeting of ministers.

One of the Prime Minister’s first moves after the election was to appoint Mr English in charge of the housing sell off.

Read more »