The Housing Minister plans to override Auckland Council and scrap the Unitary Plan in specified parts of Auckland.

The Government wants more houses built, more quickly, and does not trust that the council has the planning processes in place to deliver.

The proposed changes pit the Government against the council in what could be their first big stoush since the election.



Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford discussed the new plans this week in an exclusive interview with the Herald. He said he is taking a proposal to Cabinet "very soon" to change the way key developments are planned.

Twyford plans to establish a new Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, and in Auckland he will set up an Urban Development Authority (UDA).

The UDA will have control of 12 to 15 major housing developments. The first, which has already been announced, is on the Unitec/Wairaka site, where 3000-4000 homes will be built on 29 hectares.

Graphic / NZ Herald
Graphic / NZ Herald

Another will be along Dominion Rd, which is part of the proposed route of a light rail line to Mangere. A third will incorporate the developments currently under the wing of the Tamaki Regeneration Company in the eastern suburbs of Glen Innes through to Pt England.

Twyford told the Herald the UDA will become "the planning and consenting authority" for those developments. It will "be able to override the Unitary Plan" and will "have access to all the planning and consenting powers" currently held by council for those development areas.

Mayor Phil Goff has responded by saying that "in principle the council's got some sympathy" for the proposal. But he did not accept the council was moving too slowly on housing developments.

He pointed to data released just yesterday that showed year-on-year to July in Auckland, 12,845 new building consents were issued.

"That's a 28 per cent increase on the previous year," said Goff, "and it's almost parallel with the highest number ever, which was in 2004."


Twyford's problem with that is the figure remains short of the 14,000 to 15,000 new homes required annually to keep pace with demand.

Goff said the council hadn't had time to dig into the latest consent data yet, but the year-on-year figures to June, released last month, showed that 69 per cent of new consents were in "brownfields" areas. That's vacant areas inside the existing urban boundaries, where it's likely the number of apartments and terraced housing would be much higher than other types of housing.

"We're very pleased that consumers are showing a preference for new types of housing and lifestyle," he said.

He added that 40 per cent of the new consents were for sites within the catchment areas of rapid transit, the express busways and light rail networks that council and government hope will carry a high proportion of Auckland's commuters.

Across all the urban areas of the city, only 25 per cent of people live in those catchments. "More proof," said Goff, "that things are moving in the right direction."

He said they hadn't seen the details of the UDA proposal yet and the whole council would debate it when the time came.

The Government will need legislation to establish the UDA and give it the powers Twyford wants, and Goff expected council would make a full submission to the select committee that considers the bill.

Twyford and officials from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment briefed Goff, along with senior councillors and officials, in June.

Goff said Twyford told the councillors he accepted their position "but would like to go further".

Twyford told the Herald the council had already demonstrated it could not produce enough new housing fast enough.

"It's too close to the vested interests, like Nimbys. When it came time for tough and necessary decisions to create the Unitary Plan, too many councillors headed for the hills."

The Unitary Plan is the planning blueprint for Auckland.

He added that the UDA projects would be set up with the involvement of others, including council, iwi and private developers.

Goff said Twyford had "indicated people will have several opportunities for input", but it was the council's role to "protect the right of citizens to have their voices heard".

He said he had told the minister planning controls were only one of the things holding back faster delivery of new housing.

Twyford told the Herald the UDA's streamlined planning and consent processes would be part of the Government's much larger programme to make it easier to build.

Building and construction minister Jennny Salesa has already announced that work to reform the building code is underway. New approaches to financing, and new regulations around construction liability are also in the pipeline.

Goff sounded a warning about "attacking Nimbys", or people who say "not in my backyard" about developments.

"Nimbys can be negative or good," he said. "They can be the people who stand up for heritage, lifestyle, greenness, things like that. I think we should be careful not to generalise."

Twyford said, "We have to do this, because if we don't our kids will never be able to afford to live in this town."

The Government's $2 billion KiwiBuild programme that aims to build 100,000 modest homes for first-time buyers over the next 10 years. About 50,000 will be in Auckland.