Yesterday's announcement of a $1 billion contestable fund to help councils speed up land supply has been almost universally welcomed, so why has it come so late?

It should have formed part of the May Budget, if not the 2015 Budget.

In fact it would have given some backbone to what was otherwise a very vanilla 2016 Budget.

Housing Minister Nick Smith says he has been talking to councils about it for a year. What an indictment.


As Smith himself pointed out, the median price of a section in Auckland has increased from $100,000 in 1990 to $450,000 now. No one needs convincing land supply is a major factor in house inflation - not even Labour - they want action.

The fact there was no significant measure in this year's Budget to address land supply (and house inflation) compounded the view the Government has been too relaxed about the biggest problem it faces.

It is a perception now virtually rusted on and will be difficult to shift before next year's election.

It may have been preferable in terms of an orderly public policy process to have sequenced it so the National Statement on Urban Development Capacity (a dull but important set of rules for councils) was announced before yesterday's Infrastructure Housing Fund reveal.

But it was not essential.

The fund will give councils with high housing demand interest-free access to large amounts of money that they require for their part in infrastructure development.

With any luck, the Government will take a more urgent approach to getting the fund active and underway than it has to approving it.