1 Sep 2018

Phil Goff cautiously welcomes authority set up to fast-track housing projects

9:19 am on 1 September 2018

The Mayor of Auckland has cautiously welcomed government plans to set up an Urban Development Authority in the city to fast-track housing projects.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says the city is short on houses and there was a need to build whole new communities. Photo: Auckland Council

He does not accept though that his council is not up to the task of delivering on new housing developments.

Phil Goff said it was not usurping council but he warned against it ignoring the wishes of the community.

The Urban Development Authority is likely to have control over up to 15 housing developments.

It will become the planning and consenting authority, replacing the Auckland Council.

Urban Development and Housing Minister Phil Twyford said the current set-up was not working.

Auckland is 45,000 houses short, he said.

"We need to build houses and more than that we need to build whole new communities," he said.

"That will be the job of the Urban Development Authority."

Mr Goff said he understood the government's desire to streamline processes to increase the pace and scale of new builds, but he had a caveat.

"We will want to be sure the right of individuals to have their voices heard, when a new development is planned, will still be there."

New authority will only deal with parts of Auckland - Collins

The Urban Development Authority (UDA) will have the power to override the Auckland Council's unitary plan.

Mr Goff stands by the plan, describing it as hugely successful with more than 12,800 resource consents issued in the last year, up 28 percent on the last year.

He said 69 percent of the consents were for brown-field developments.

"It shows that the Auckland Unitary Plan has been effective."

National's Housing spokesperson Judith Collins said by setting up a UDA for certain areas, all it did was leave the rest of the city out.

Her message for Mr Twyford was: "Join with us in reforming the Resource Management Act, the Building Act and planning systems for the whole of Auckland and the whole of New Zealand."

Ms Collins said this would be the best way to go rather than set up a new authority just to deal with parts of Auckland which interest the current government.

Mr Twyford said the UDA would not be a silver bullet fixing all of the problems making up the housing crisis.

"But it will enable us to build large-scale whole new communities."

Mr Twyford is talking about between 5000 and 10,000 new homes.

"In a master-plan way that delivers the kind of housing people want. Affordable housing with good design. That is not currently happening."

UDA will lead to 'soviet-style bureaucracy' - Property Council

The Property Institute believes an Urban Development Authority, as suggested by the government will not solve the housing crisis.

Property Institute chief executive Ashley Church described it as a soviet-style bureaucracy.

"It's essentially duplicating exactly the same thing that was set up in the form of the super city four or five years ago," he said.

"It's basically taking a solution that clearly hasn't worked."

Mr Church wanted the government to go further and establish competing urban development authorities right across the city.

He likened it to the reform of the electricity industry a few years ago, when separate companies were set up to deliver power.

"Exactly the same model applied to housing would work in Auckland if you introduced competing authorities doing the same thing the power companies did, you would find it would be a much more successful model than the one currently being proposed."

Mr Goff does not see the establishment of an Urban Development Authority as central government trying to undermine his council.

"The minister has given his assurance that the government will work collaboratively with Auckland Council. I think we shared the same objectives."

Mr Goff said he accepted the idea of a UDA and wanted to be positive and constructive about it.

"At the same time when we see the detail of what is proposed we will be making full submissions to insure we get that balance right between streamlining and insuring people have the ability to have their voice heard."

An Auckland councillor, Penny Hulse, thinks the power of central government may work in the city's favour, even though the council has been working hard on providing more housing.

She said there were some things the council could not do.

"Getting developers, financiers and planners together to make them happen but if the government can bring its big cheque book to the table, that is the bit that is really going to make it happen."

Local Government New Zealand supports the concept of urban development authorities because it recognises there are regulatory barriers outside the control of councils.

Its president Dave Cull said there was, however, concern that central government may be interfering too much in local affairs.

"The considerations that government might have might not taken account of community needs, community apprehensions, that is why we think that if this is going to be applied, and we support its intent, then it should be done in partnership with the local council."

Housing Minister Phil Twyford is hoping legislation setting up the UDA will before Parliament either later this year or early next and he expects the authority to be up and running in Auckland by the end of next year or early 2020.