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.  

When Nick Smith announced the Special Housing Areas – Auckland Council got right in and started ‘tranching’ land. This is to say that they were placing a legal categorisation on the land that would allow a land owner or a developer to then opt through the special housing office for a consent.

It’s easy to run around tranching land but it is also entirely meaningless. It’s like colouring in a plan of Auckland with crayons. The real issue is consents.

So why are there hardly any consents?

Council and now old Nick blame developers and land bankers saying they are sitting on their hands. But it’s not. The real blame lies with the Special Housing Office, Len Brown and his nasty top brass at Auckland Council who are deliberately thwarting the process to eventually allow the compact city model to remain.

The way they are doing this is through infrastructure. Last year Len announced the Council budget would slash the capital works budget to ‘keep rates down’.

In doing so they killed off any last remaining funding streams that would allow them to pay for infrastructure upgrades on main trunk pipes so that the new subdivisions that create new affordable houses can connect into them.

You see a developer cannot get a consent for their subdivisions and projects if the receiving infrastructure has not got the capacity to take it. Most of Auckland’s infrastructure is poked.

Blaming developers for land banking is total nonsense.

The issue is that Auckland Council are screwing the scrum. Wake up Nick!


– NZ Herald


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  • shykiwibloke

    Putting the dodgy council to one side for a moment – this seems to highlight another area where the government is doing nothing much. Suggest its time for a cabinet reshuffle to get some vigor and focus back into several portfolios – and ‘be seen’ to be doing something of substance.

    • mommadog

      Good point. I feel National has been resting on its laurels a bit too much and politicians with portfolios need to pull finger. They cant keep counting on Key’s popularity to see them through to next election. Recovery from last brutal election over, holidays over. now get to work boys and girls. Starting with Nick and then Gerry needs to take a good look at our armed forces capability which is currently apparently very little.

    • philbest

      Look, I used to criticise Clark and Cullen for letting this bubble start on their watch. But for National to have done nothing from 2008 when it was clear what needed to be done (Don Brash knew long before 2005) is not mere timidity or ignorance, it is straight-out betrayal. This is now John Key’s housing bubble and all the negative equity after the crash comes will be his fault. Of course by that time he will be a retired PM in some cosy sinecure with a knighthood and all the rest of it. BTW I argue for a major crash in 2022 – 2025, not an imminent one. The damage for which a 2008 can-kicking government is responsible, at that time, will be massive. I do not believe they intend to fix this at all now, they have bought time while it becomes unreformable.

  • Mick Ie

    This is absolutely correct, but we won’t read this in the Herald. Many of staff that approve (or not) the consents have no common sense, read the ambiguous rules, put their own interpretation on it, consult the environmentalists and Iwi and then literally create Mountains out of Ant Hills.

  • Alfred

    It’s a disgrace that Auckland Council has consistently rejected the redevelopment of Bayswater Marina – right across the harbour from the city. It’s a simple case of NIMBYISM by Councillors like Chris Darby. WO has covered this before here – http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2014/08/nth-shore-local-politicians-ear-bashing-ctd/

  • Grizz30

    Well if that is the problem, how about central government get proactive and start arse whipping the council.

    • Aucky

      Overtime for a government appointed City Commssioner because the inbuilt nepotism, empire-building, self interest, inefficiency and outright corruption will never be rooted out and dealt to otherwise.

      Offer Rob Fyfe the job on a three year contract with a massive incentive bonus based on results.

  • Edward_L

    There was a time when you, the developer, could say, I’ll do the infrastructure myself. Now, you pay a levy and wait for the capital work. Talk about slow down the project.

  • So they’ve created ‘special’ areas to fast-track consents where you can’t get the consents issued…classic…

  • Matt Pearce

    A land tax would solve this problem. Land owners would finally be incentivised to use land for its most productive purpose

    • James

      Land tax also has the advantage that it is one of the least economically damaging taxes (and in some cases can actual create value – rather than destroy it like most taxes). Stick a land tax in place and offset it with tax cuts to more economically damaging taxes (like Corporate Income Tax).

      I doubt that the farmers would like it though!

      • Kendall

        But it must be done without exception.

    • David Moore

      Yes. The councils bloody-minded approach to development is largely why land banking is a ‘thing’. You know land for housing will always be highly restricted and any attempt at development is just a world of frustration and heartache, may as well just sit on the land while it goes up in value.

      • philbest

        Exactly, and that is why in London, where all the price signals are screaming “shortage of housing space” fully 45% of sites WITH permission for redevelopment, remain idle. Source: the latest McKinsey Global Housing Affordability Report.
        The same thing has quickly become a problem in Dorkland now that the utopians are running the place according to THEIR plans for “what is the best way YOU should live”.
        Their economic ignorance and bloody-minded resilience to evidence, and the unintended consequences and the damage to humanity, is morally akin and only slightly less in magnitude, to the ruination of Eastern Europe 1945-1989 under similarly-slope-browed tinpot Napoleons.

    • Muffin

      that doesnt fix the problem… in fact I cant think of any problem that has been fixed with a tax.

      • Matt Pearce

        taxes incentives or dis-incentives. A tax on something negative like tobacco disincentives smoking. taxes on positive things such as income taxes are negative, so switching taxes from positive things like income tax to something neutral like land taxes is therefor positive.

        Land tax encourages land owners to use land for its most productive use. It incentivises the owner to use it or sell it. this has very positive effects for society.

        • Muffin

          And for those that want to secure a tangable investment for their wealth, rather than the casino that is the share and bond market? I would prefer the government stepped out of our lives all together. i.e. by all means smoke, but you have to pay for your own healthcare if you choose to.

        • philbest

          By all means advocate land taxes, but there still should not be growth boundaries. Land taxes actually work better at the very things the boundary is meant to be for.


          It is absurd to try and change basic variables like resource consumption and the cost of infrastructure via the “long detour route” of mandated changes in urban form. Pricing the variables we wish to affect would have immediate results, and people would alter their behaviour in whatever is the most efficient way for them, and most certainly the aggregate result would be many times more efficient than whatever mandated changes in urban form would achieve.

          Urban economist Anthony Downs pointed out in “Still Stuck in Traffic” (2004) that trying to affect resource and utility use variables via urban form was like trying to adjust the position of a picture on the wall by moving the wall rather than the picture. Just price the freakin’ infrastructure use properly and use land taxes, like Mason Gaffney points out in that link.
          But of course there is no fat zero-sum gouge by vested interests (eg in property and finance) by doing it that way, is there. This racket needs an investigation, who trusts Len Brown to be squeaky clean on anything including this?

          • Matt Pearce

            Well said

        • Don W

          Govt shouldn’t use tax incentives or disincentives to direct people to make choices that suit govt ideals. People should be free to make their own life’s decisions and to except the responsibility that goes with it.

          • Matt Pearce

            False. By default any and all taxes will have incentives and disincentives. So we may aswell minimize the damage. The way it is at the moment is the most negative as most tax revenue comes from income and profit etc, rather then consumption.

            The government has to raise revenue via tax, its a necessary evil, so they might aswell do it in the most positive or least destructive ways

          • Don W

            We are human beings , not economic units. We have the right to life , liberty, and the pursuit of happiness . We are not subjects, We are not worker bees working for the good of the hive.It is not the govts job to determine how we live. This is not N Korea. I will not be directed like a flock of sheep at the will of a farmer aided my his working dogs.

          • Matt Pearce

            But you already are. You already pay taxes! why on earth wouldn’t you want a better tax system!

          • Don W

            Tax is theft , Commandment no 8, Thou shalt not steal.
            Tax is taken , not paid. All human interaction should be voluntary, or we have a system of those that are in control and the rest that are subjugated.

    • AlanB

      We have a sort of land tax still – its called Rates. The idea was (as well as revenue collecting of course) that idle land, being subject to the same rates as

      used land would be subject to pressure for development. The local body that I have the misfortune to live under, decided three years ago to change to “capital value” rates. This has the effect of discouraging development as well as easing the development pressure on unused land. Typically daft policy.

      • philbest

        The Councillor Bill Burrill (I think that is his name) was covered by WhaleOil a few months ago because he profited obscenely from the growth boundary, he sold his land for $39 million when in a typical land market without a growth boundary causing the inflation it does, it might have been worth $1 million – I kid you not.


        The NZ Herald – those enablers of all this gouging and ripping of Kiwis – never said anything other than “poor William Burrill forced off his family’s land by high rates”
        It sure as heck wasn’t a case of making the land – and the housing that will be built on it – affordable though…

  • Odd Ball

    All of this is happening, because a bunch of patronising “we know best” idealist’s have decided how ‘ordinary’ people should live.

  • Addedup

    Christchurch council are doing the same to Brownlee where it is 12 months since he finally forced them to make changes kicking and screaming what he didn’t realize nor did his overpaid CERA notice was the council made the headline changes but made them impossible with the fine print. You can count on one hand the number of permits issued because of Brownlees changes, not his fault and now the new district plan is even more restrictive than the last one.

  • Dave_1924

    Simple – declare this a national crisis. Remove the power from Akl City COuncil. Install a SOE to do the job and get on with it. If the infrastructure needs enhacing tender a contract, take the money from the Akl City Council budget under legislation and build it. And any leftie that whines about subverting democratically elected local body powers – asking them “Do you want affordable housing in Auckland?”

    it will never happen but if the Super City was run properly – for its citizens and not for the planning wet dreams of a Leftie elite – then it would be an affordable city free of 100K Curtain partitions in public libraries, stupid urban planning laws and protection of political donors who want intesification to lining their pockets…

  • FredFrog

    Council is taking funding away from vital infrastructure. Yet they’re paying image consultants to come into council offices to advise council staff on how to dress professionally. And Lennie threw his toys out the cot when facilities told him that they were not going to give him a private elevator in the new office building. And even more that I could tell.

  • Warren Murray

    It is misleading to say that most of Auckland’s infrastructure is ‘poked’, when the barrier to building more houses is lack of capacity. ‘Poked’ implies that it is run down and worn out.

    If Auckland’s infrastructure is at capacity then infill would also be a problem, because infill is adding demand where there is no ability to service it.

    Realistically it wouldn’t be out of bounds for Council to incentivise development by having lower connection costs where there is capacity available; i.e lower development contributions for hi density residential developments than low density developments.

    What has Auckland (and previous Councils) done with the development contributions they collected?

    IMO, Rates should not be used to subsidise developers, they either supply the infrastructure, or pay Council to do it. If Council has not planned for the growth that everyone can see is underway, it has failed in its duty to provide basic sanitary services. Unacceptable.

  • abbaby

    Good fishing there …

    • Tanmedia

      Good fishing and a terrible employment market. You have to make do with what you have, be a beneficiary, small business owner, or get elected to council. But the fishing could be relevant. Enough fish could be sold directly to Auckland restaurants on the sly.

  • abbaby

    Just want to say that even you falluhs and fallese’s say you are ‘right wing’ often what you write here is definitely ‘for the people.’