Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Govt piles on pressure for housing land

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

The Government is becoming increasingly heavy-handed over Auckland's housing shortage, with talk of a new Crown agency to free up more land.

Environment Minister Amy Adams has suggested stripping the Auckland Council of some planning powers for three years to allow a Crown agency to play a role increasing the city's residential land supply.

New Housing Minister Nick Smith has also released a Government report which, he says, shows a worrying trend of reduced land availability and soaring section prices.

Last week, Dr Smith vowed to break the "stranglehold" of Auckland Council's policy of containing urban sprawl - a policy he said was "killing the dreams of Aucklanders" by driving up house prices.

The Government broadsides come as the council prepares to release its draft unitary plan tomorrow, which will determine where and how the city expands in rural and coastal areas and intensifies existing town centres and suburbs. Ms Adams refused the council's request to give legal effect to the unitary plan once it is formally released in September and suggested the Crown agency as an interim measure in the three years it will take to finalise it.

The unitary plan contains a new "rural urban boundary" (RUB) to gradually zone land outside the current "metropolitan urban boundary" for a further 160,000 dwellings over the next 30 years. The existing urban boundaries will be intensified for 280,000 new houses.

Dr Smith said it was essential that more land was made available for housing to improve supply and availability, quoting a report from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, "Residential Land in Auckland". He said it showed Auckland needed about 13,000 new homes a year over the next 30 years.

However, the city had just 1900 sections ready to build on today, 14,500 sections ready to be subdivided and 54,500 sections in the pipeline - half the supply of land to meet the council's targets. Dr Smith said the Government was also worried about figures in the report showing the council wanted 4000 high-density dwellings a year for 10 years and 10,000 a year after that.

"This compares to 830 higher density dwellings consented last year and an average of 2674 per year over the past decade," he said.

Labour's housing spokesman, Phil Twyford, said Dr Smith was repeating his debacles with accident compensation and local government by using dodgy figures and blaming Auckland Council for the housing problem.

He said the Government report questioned whether freeing up more land on the fringes would automatically mean more affordable homes or boost the number of houses built.

Mayor Len Brown also noted the Government report said land supply alone would not solve the problem.

"If the Government wants more land available to Aucklanders more quickly, they need to allow the unitary plan to take effect on notification. This will bring the new rural-urban boundary into effect much more quickly and address one of the issues the Government says is central to housing affordability," Mr Brown said.

- NZ Herald

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