A Far North District councillor has hit back at claims by Finance Minister Bill English that councils are to blame for soaring house costs, and thereby contributing to poverty.

Mr English last week blamed councils for planning processes that he said prevented the building of affordable homes, the resulting shortage of low-cost homes being one of the main drivers of inequality and poverty.

Cr Ann Court directed the blame at what she described as stupid, and ever-stricter, building and safety regulations set by the government, however. Those regulations, she said, were adding thousands of dollars to the cost of new homes, and prompting some builders to leave the industry in frustration.

One of many new rules was that builders now had to have every electrical tool and lead re-certified every three months. Cr Court's builder husband had 40 tools and leads, which cost $30 each to certify four times a year, a total of $4800 per annum, a cost that had to be passed on to his customers.


The government now required all new buildings to be earthquake-proof, regardless of where they were built, and any land previously used for industry or horticulture had to undergo costly soil tests before it could be built on. Other new regulations were well-intentioned, such as green technology, earthquake-grade steel and double-glazing requirements, but drove up new home prices.

"But what really annoys me are the stupid OSH laws that are driving up the cost of everything," she added.

For example, a costly traffic management plan was required any time building supplies were delivered to a site. That made sense in central Auckland, but not in rural Northland.

"Mr English needs to get out of his ivory tower and look at reality on the ground. It's really frustrating builders. They're leaving in droves because of compliance costs and regulations," she said.

"Everyone blames the council, but last time I checked councils don't write the Building Act or the RMA, but are legally obliged to implement both."

Councils, and therefore ratepayers, had also been hit with part of the cost of fixing leaky buildings, although the materials that had caused the problems had been approved by the government.

NZ First leader Winston Peters said Mr English's comments showed how out of touch he was. Kiwis living in poverty were "a million miles away" from anyone planning to build a home, he said.