I recently had the joy of watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail for the umpteenth time.
Among the many hilarious moments are the "knights who say Ni!". They are a tribe who stop travellers in their tracks.
They demand sacrifices to allow people to pass. They are exceptionally good at chanting Ni! and the mere sound of the word strikes fear into all who hear it.
I laughed because I have known many knights who say Ni!
They are the people who always say no.
They know how to make submissions under the Resource Management Act to stop something happening.
They are the council officials who stop you building a deck or demand an outrageous fee to build a basement.
The modern day knights who say Ni! are the Nimbys (Not In My Back Yard) and Bananas (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything) who have used the RMA and innumerable plan changes to stop things happening anywhere near them, or to force any development into such a box that it benefits the neighbours more than the occupants.
The RMA knights who say no have been a shadowy tribe until now and it's been hard to pin much damage to the economy on them.
After all, land prices have doubled and trebled in the biggest cities and the Nimbys and Bananas have profited royally by simply saying no to new developments that would add to housing supply. They're not complaining.
Now the skyrocketing housing costs are hitting the Government through higher accommodation supplements and the economy through higher interest rates.
Housing and Environment Minister Nick Smith has the Nimbys and Bananas squarely in his sights and has ammunition to argue that 25 years of knights saying no in the forest of the RMA have been damaging.
This week, he cited a study of Auckland developments to show RMA rules, delays and uncertainties added $30 billion to the cost of building and reduced new housing stock by 40,000 in the past decade.
His speech proposing a 10-point rewrite of the RMA cited numerous examples where RMA madness had stopped owners developing their properties, such as:
A medical centre had to spend $57,000 on fees and consultants to get approval for seven new bike stands costing $35 each.
An elderly couple's plans for a house were rejected because their living area did not face the street.
Property developer Sir Bob Jones had to consult 13 iwi and pay $4500 for a resource consent to replace a ground floor window.
A primary school had to spend $100,000 to be redesignated a secondary school, even though the buildings and grounds were not changing.
The study estimated the cost of regulations in a subdivision at up to $60,000 a house and up to $110,000 an apartment.
Smith's plans for RMA reforms are rightly focused on improving housing supply and affordability. They are also rightly focused on stripping away the magical powers and mystique of the Nimby knights who say No! and who damage the economy and a younger generation locked out of the housing market.
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