Vic Crone: Auckland needs a council that steps up and takes charge

We can continue giving up on Auckland Council ever being able to serve its core purpose, or we can put in strong leadership. Photo / Sarah Ivey
We can continue giving up on Auckland Council ever being able to serve its core purpose, or we can put in strong leadership. Photo / Sarah Ivey

• Vic Crone is standing for Mayor of Auckland

Auckland is suffering a shocking leadership failure. We're facing a decade of house and rental price increases unless the Auckland Council steps out of the shadows and gets serious about doing its fundamental job. Auckland is about 30,000 homes short and, going through the latest consenting figures, I've found the situation is worse than anticipated.

If we continue to consent at the speed indicated in the latest Auckland Housing Accord data, we'll miss the mark by 4000 to 5000 homes every year. So come next year we'll be around 35,000 short, 40,000 the year after and so on.

The Government and Auckland Council have certainly made inroads into lifting consenting rates and land supply but it's not at the levels we need. While the Government plays an important role, it doesn't hold the key to solving Auckland's housing problems. It simply doesn't have the capability or flexibility to build to the scale and pace we need, as suggested by Labour.

Vic Crone is standing for Mayor of Auckland. Photo / Brendon O'Hagan
Vic Crone is standing for Mayor of Auckland. Photo / Brendon O'Hagan

We've lost sight of the fact that the two core purposes of councils under the Local Government Act are to firstly enable democratic local decision-making and secondly to meet the current and future needs of communities (infrastructure, local public services and regulation).

Auckland Council has dropped the ball on forecasting, planning, democratic consultation, delivering and is now failing to front up and have a jolly good go at unclogging the housing supply chain. Indeed, the upcoming Unitary Plan must bring about a dramatic change in planning restrictions, allowing more houses where logical. I'm hearing good things about the panel so I'm expecting hefty but balanced recommendations.

But while the council continues to bury its head in the sand, the Government is left focusing all its energy on doing the council's job for it. Think about the City Rail Link, the East-West Link, Urban Development Agency, Housing Accord and Special Housing Areas, National Housing Policy Statement, the Housing Infrastructure Fund, the Auckland Transport Alignment Project and many more recent projects. You've even got the Opposition coming up with policy that, even if it wins the next election, is years away from happening.

We can continue giving up on Auckland Council ever being able to serve its core purpose, or we can put in strong leadership. I'm confident we can make a massive improvement in housing supply.

As mayor, I would:

• Implement higher and more realistic targets for how much housing the city needs to be consented in any year.

• Rethink planning restrictions under the final Unitary Plan to allow more housing where transport and water infrastructure already exist.

• Release underused public land for development much faster.

• Implement strict sunset clauses on released land so that development happens faster.

• Discourage land banking through substantial targeted rates.

• Overhaul the council's consenting process to introduce shorter consenting times and tougher penalties for not meeting them, take it online, provide full transparency to users, take a serious look at the necessary resourcing and look at introducing competition.

• Provide stronger incentives to encourage the building of more affordable homes, including looking into consenting costs reflective of house size.

• Provide clear and useable report cards on our housing progress.

Aucklanders face big decisions at council elections in October. They deserve a real competition of solutions and competence, not a walk-in win based on name recognition.

Something Helen Clark said recently in her UN leadership bid rings true for this election - the Auckland mayoralty is a huge job and the election should be based on talent and who has the best skills to get results.

- NZ Herald

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