Property editor of the NZ Herald

Abolish Auckland city limits - Labour

Phil Twyford has called on the Government to abolish Auckland's city limits. Photo / Getty Images
Phil Twyford has called on the Government to abolish Auckland's city limits. Photo / Getty Images

Labour wants the Government to abolish Auckland's city limits to get people out of cars, caravans, garages and tents.

Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford said the urban growth boundary had to go because it has fuelled the housing crisis and people would not be forced into bad circumstances if the Government acted.

"The Government should rule out any possibility of an urban growth boundary in Auckland Council's Unitary Plan if it is serious about fixing the housing crisis," Twyford said.

"Over 25 years the urban growth boundary hasn't prevented sprawl, but it has helped drive land and housing costs through the roof. It has contributed to a housing crisis that has allowed speculators to feast off the misery of Generation Rent, and forced thousands of families to live in garages and campgrounds," Twyford said.

"Labour's plan will free up the restrictive land use rules that stop the city growing up and out. It will stop land prices skyrocketing, and put the kibosh on landbankers and speculators."

But Housing Minister Nick Smith has expressed delight in the large number of new-house starts in Auckland.

"I am particularly encouraged by the progress being achieved in Auckland, where housing issues are the most acute. New home construction is now at 9566 for the year to March 2016, compared to 7940 in 2015, and the low point of only 3579 five years ago," Smith said last month.

This is premature. It's only six weeks until we get the report from the Independent Hearings Panel on the unitary plan.
Auckland councillor Chris Darby

Auckland councillor Chris Darby said politicians should stay out of the boundary issue.

Darby, one of four councillors assigned to the Proposed Unitary Plan and deputy chairman of the council's development committee, said no politician should be interfering in the boundary issue.

"This is premature. It's only six weeks until we get the report from the Independent Hearings Panel on the unitary plan. There are submissions to soften, abolish or strengthen the boundary. We don't know what the panel will decide.

"But we as a city have gone through a long process and it's out of order for any politician - myself included - to try to influence that decision. Why did we establish the Independent Hearings Panel to work for almost three years on this, receive thousands of public submissions, hear expert evidence, all put before highly qualified commissioners?" Darby asked.

It is not enough for the council to progressively add more land zoned for development here and there. That just feeds the speculation that is an inevitable result of having the boundary.
Phil Twyford

Twyford's boundary abolition suggestion also ignored the Future Urban Land Supply Strategy which council confirmed earlier this year, Darby said.

"The IHP is considering in its evidence. I chaired that process," Darby said.

But Twyford said the urban growth boundary created an artificial scarcity of land, driving up section costs. Land inside the boundary is up to ten times more valuable than rural land.

"It is not enough for the council to progressively add more land zoned for development here and there. That just feeds the speculation that is an inevitable result of having the boundary.

Phil Twyford has called on the Government to abolish Auckland's city limits. Photo / John Borren
Phil Twyford has called on the Government to abolish Auckland's city limits. Photo / John Borren

"There is a smarter way to manage growth on the city fringes by properly integrating land use with transport and infrastructure planning. There should be more intensive spatial planning of Auckland's growth areas in the north, north-west and south. Land of special value can be set aside, like the northern coastal strip or Pukekohe's horticulture soils. Corridors should be acquired and future networks mapped for transport and other infrastructure," Twyford said.

"This requires bold reform. Freeing up growth on the fringes needs to go hand in hand with allowing more density - so people can build flats and apartments in parts of the city where people want to live, particularly around town centres and transport routes. It is also essential to reform the way infrastructure is financed.

Prime Minister John Key with Minister of Building & Housing Nick Smith at the launching of the new affordable housing development at Hobsonville Point, Auckland, last month. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Prime Minister John Key with Minister of Building & Housing Nick Smith at the launching of the new affordable housing development at Hobsonville Point, Auckland, last month. Photo / Brett Phibbs

"The cost of new infrastructure must rest with the property owners of new developments to prevent the ratepayer carrying the can for expensive infrastructure investment in places where it's too expensive to build. Labour proposes using bond financing paid back by targeted rates over the life of the asset. This can range up to 50 years in some of the jurisdictions using this mechanism," Twyford said.

"Fixing planning rules on their own won't solve the housing crisis. It also needs to go alongside cracking down on property speculators, and a massive government-backed building programme.

- NZ Herald

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