26 Mar 2013

No deal on unitary plan

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Written by: Bernard Orsman
Photo: APN
Published: The New Zealand Herald – 26 March 2013

Housing Minister offers little advice to help Aucklanders into homes.

20130326 No deal on unitary planThe Government and Auckland Council are setting up a working party to tackle Auckland’s housing crisis, but remain tight-lipped about practical measures to build more houses and address affordability problems.

Housing Minister Nick Smith and Auckland Mayor Len Brown emerged from an hour-long meeting at the Auckland Town Hall last night where they disagreed on a council solution to give legal effect to a new planning rulebook to free up land for new homes from September.

Dr Smith reiterated the Government’s position not to give legal effect to the new rulebook – unitary plan – for three years to ensure that stakeholders and the community were involved in its development.

The minister, who earlier this month vowed to break the “stranglehold” of land supply he said was “killing the dreams of Aucklanders” by driving up house prices, offered no alternatives to the unitary plan.

It is understood that legislative action to free up land remains an option, but that would over-ride rights the Government says it wants to protect with the three-year timetable for the unitary plan.

The unitary plan has provision for 90,000 new homes on 146sq km of land in and around Warkworth, Silverdale, Kumeu and Pukekohe.

Right now, Auckland has a deficit of 20,000 to 30,000 houses and needs to average 13,000 new houses a year for the next 30 years. In the past six months, 3000 building consents were issued.

Dr Smith and Mr Brown agreed on the need to build more houses within a mix of the existing urban limits and in greenfield areas. They also agreed the issue of affordability was not only about land supply, but the costs of infrastructure, building materials, labour and compliance costs.

“We have had some useful discussions about how we may be able to get officials to find a way through those complex issues,” Dr Smith said. The council’s position is that the unitary plan should be the basis for whatever happens.

The working party will comprise Government and council officials and meet weekly over the next six to nine weeks to “get on top” of the housing challenge. There will be political meetings fortnightly.

The Employers and Manufacturers Association yesterday called on the Government to give legal effect to the unitary plan in September, saying the city could not afford a delay of three years.

By Bernard Orsman @BernardOrsman Email Bernard


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