We're in a housing crisis: a housing affordability crisis, a housing supply crisis, and an emergency housing crisis.
Meanwhile, the exposure draft of the Natural and Built Environments Bill – one of the three pillars of legislation expected to replace the RMA – has emerged.
Given that we're in a housing crisis, fast-tracking the development of more housing, particularly more affordable housing, must surely be one of the aims of the Bill? Well, yes, sort of.
The national planning framework must promote various things in order to achieve the purpose of the Bill, and one of these is that "a housing supply is developed" to provide consumer choice, contribute to affordability, meet the diverse and changing needs of people and communities, and support Māori housing aims.
The difficulty here is that the Bill isn't about achieving housing that meets the needs of our communities, just that a housing supply is, among various other things, to be "promoted". Quite whether promoting the goal of housing will actually mean more houses get built is as yet unknown.
Housing is item (l) on a list that starts with (a) and ends in (p), though it isn't clear whether there is any hierarchy to these items.
Each region will have a natural and built environments plan, established by a planning committee.
Given the technical manner in which district and regional plans are currently prepared (which in theory is all about public participation, but in reality is all about technical evidence, planning opinion, and legal argument), a change in direction is probably a good thing.
Local bodies, and the planners who make their plans, have been disinclined to deal with demands of growth, a housing shortage, and the need for greater intensification, which is why we have (and needed) a new National Policy Statement to enable more density in our housing.
But a planning committee must take a precautionary approach, and the matters that the planning committee must regard do not include anything about housing.
It's fair to say everyone wants something different from RMA reform.
Some want greater recognition of environmental bottom lines. That's there. Some want greater recognition of climate change. That's there. Some want greater recognition of the Treaty of Waitangi. That's there.
What's not there is enough on housing. In the midst of a housing crisis, the topic is buried among a number of other things to "promote". Where are the bottom lines on housing?
The short answer is that there aren't any, and it looks like there never will be.
A different approach might start with recognition that building enough houses to meet the needs of our population is a good thing – a positive environmental effect, if you like that sort of wording.
Having growing numbers of people, adults and children, placed in motels being used for emergency housing is not a good thing. Under the RMA, too few new houses have been built, and there is a need for more housing to be developed at speed.
So we could put that at the centre of the Bill, instead of burying it in the detail. Put simply, we could have been more honest about the problems that the RMA has created, and more direct about the solutions we want.
Speed, cutting through process, and putting it bluntly cutting through planning, is key.
The Natural and Built Environments Bill won't achieve this speed, and won't achieve the sea-change that is needed in housing.
Quite what the Bill will achieve remains to be seen.
• Thomas Gibbons is a specialist property and resource management lawyer.