Property editor of the NZ Herald

Business hails Labour call to ban city limits

Twyford says expanding urban growth boundary would stop land prices soaring.
A Housing subdivision at Greenhithe, Auckland, next to Upper Harbour Motorway. Political support for ditching Auckland's urban limit is growing. File Photo / Brett Phibbs.
A Housing subdivision at Greenhithe, Auckland, next to Upper Harbour Motorway. Political support for ditching Auckland's urban limit is growing. File Photo / Brett Phibbs.

Labour's push for the Government to abolish Auckland's city limits to get people out of cars, caravans, garages and tents has riled critics but gained support from a business lobby group.

Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford said yesterday that the urban growth boundary had to go because it had fuelled the housing crisis. Government action would stop people being forced into bad circumstances, he said.

"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.

"Labour's plan will free up the restrictive land use rules that stop the city growing up and out," he said.

"It will stop land prices skyrocketing, and put the kibosh on landbankers and speculators."

But Environmental Defence Society chief executive Gary Taylor has concerns with the plan.

"This is a very strange idea coming out of Labour. Not at all good for the environment," Taylor said.

Auckland councillor Chris Darby says 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 the comments were premature.

"It's only a few 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," Darby said.

"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?"

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

However, Business NZ chief executive Kirk Hope welcomed the Labour Party's announcement, saying providing for more land is the key issue to freeing up the block on housing constraints.

"With agreement on this issue between both main political parties, it is to be hoped that local government planning decisions will take heed of the need to focus on land and housing supply," Hope said.

Labour MP Phil Goff, speaking in his capacity as an Auckland mayoral candidate, said he welcomed the opportunity to look at solutions outside the square.

"I welcome the statement that Phil [Twyford] has made and it will provoke debate around the question of the inadequacies of the current situation," Goff said.

"Whether the removal of the rural urban boundary will resolve the problem without having other consequences is something I am keeping an open mind on." additional reporting: Bernard Orsman, BusinessDesk

- NZ Herald

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