Finance Minister’s comments bring rush of criticism
Finance Minister Bill English's suggestion that councils are increasing poverty though poor planning rules which drive housing costs higher has been labelled simplistic and deceptive by anti-poverty campaigners and town planners.
In another reiteration of the Government's intention to overhaul the Resource Management Act, Mr English said planning rules under that legislation "are causing poverty" by driving up housing costs through higher land prices.
He said planning rules had until recently made it "pretty much illegal to build a house under half a million dollars in Auckland" and "our planning processes have probably done more to increase income inequality in New Zealand than most other policies".
Acting Auckland Mayor Penny Hulse said it was the first time she had heard those criticisms from Mr English.
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"We've had this discussion with Mr English several times now over the last year or so and the work that we've been doing with Government and particularly with Minister Nick Smith has meant that council has changed many of its planning processes," she told Radio New Zealand.
The council had worked with the Government to fast-track land for building in Special Housing Areas, "and we've got people moving into affordable housing in Weymouth as we speak".
However, Auckland Council would "make no apologies for the fact we expect good urban design and good-quality housing to be built".
New Zealand Planning Institute chief executive Susan Houston was "disappointed" by Mr English's comments and said his views were "unsupported in any publicly available government report on inequality within New Zealand".
"On the contrary, the evidence available suggests that urban planning processes play a negligible part in housing affordability which is now being inextricably linked with inequality."
Child Poverty Action Group co-convenor Janfrie Wakim said Mr English's "simplistic" criticism overlooked the complex drivers of poverty. Income had to be addressed first, and shifting the idea onto councils was "deceptive".