5 May 2015

Govt and council clash over Auckland housing

6:40 pm on 5 May 2015

The Government and the Auckland Council have strongly disagreed over Special Housing Areas and who will foot the bill for the infrastructure costs.

Nick Smith during caucas run 5/5/15

Nick Smith on his way into the National Party's caucus meeting this morning. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Auckland Council said it would prefer that Special Housing Areas were in existing urban areas, rather than rural, as it lowered its infrastructure costs.

It said it was absolutely imperative central government took the housing crisis in Auckland seriously and committed to funding the vital infrastructure required.

But Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith issued a warning to the council over the accord.

Dr Smith said the Government had the ability to overrule the consenting for Special Housing Areas and create them itself if the council did not play ball over infrastructure contributions.

He said the Council should pay its fair share for infrastructure, as the new residents will end up paying rates.

SHAs on hold

Auckland Council has said the approval of another 45 SHA requests, including the three deferred, will depend partly on the results of its discussions with the Government.

It said three Special Housing Areas in the city's north-west around Huapai are on hold until the Government helps it to pay for transport projects in the area.

The council has rejected the fast-tracked developments of homes around Huapai, citing community concerns about roading and public transport.

But Dr Smith said the Government could override the council if it felt it needed to.

"The Government also the power to create special housing areas without the approval of the Auckland Council, if they choose to overplay their cards and demands for money," he said.

"The legislation makes plain that the Government's strong preference is to work in co-operation with the Auckland Council, and to work on these issues together and those arrangements are still robust.

"If the Auckland Council overplays its card the legislation does make provision for the Government to approve SHAs without the approval of the Council."

Dr Smith said he was not making a threat against the Council.

"I'm just pointing out, the question was put to me, well what happens if the Council does demand unreasonably financial resources from government.

"I'm simply pointing out what's in the legislation."

Concerns about transport links

An Auckland community leader is warning planning for a Special Housing Area is putting the cart before the horse, because the transport links are so poor.

The chairperson of the Kumeu-Huapai Ratepayers and Resident Association, Pete Sinton, said no infrastructure planning had been done.

Mr Sinton said there was no train link and a limited bus service.

Costs 'dumped on' ratepayers

Labour Party housing spokesperson Phil Twyford said the council would go broke if it had to bear the cost of all of the new housing areas - even with developer contributions.

"The Government is dumping massive infrastructure costs on the Auckland ratepayer by splattering Special Housing Areas all around the fringes of the city.

"For roads, for water, for electricity... the developers are responsible for picking up the costs of infrastructure within those developments but the rest of it falls on the poor old ratepayer."

He said 200,000 extra people, 80,000 new dwellings and 60,000 extra jobs are planned for Auckland's north west, "but the Government hasn't thought about how these people are going to get to work".

Dr Smith said the council could recoup infrastructure costs from the developers and once the houses were built $1 million of income is created for every 300 new ratepayers.

He said if the Government was to create special housing areas on it own, under the legislation it too could levy developers for the cost of infrastructure.

"Now I've got developers in Auckland who are willing to meet the cost of the infrastructure, who are wanting to get on and build their homes who feel frustrated with the Auckland Council that they won't get on and deal with them, and that is why we're going to continue to put the pressure on the Auckland Council."

Auckland is already getting more than a third of the Government's capital expenditure for transport infrastructure, but Dr Smith said the Government would consider spending more.

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