Wednesday, 24 July 2019

ACT supports RMA reform

ACT Leader David Seymour has welcomed the Government’s decision to overhaul the Resource Management Act.

“Fundamental changes to our planning rules are long overdue. The 900-page RMA is the single biggest obstacle to housing affordability in New Zealand.

“We welcome a Government that is prepared to reform the RMA. Even when ACT and National together had a majority in Parliament, National refused to make significant changes. When National, ACT, and United Future had a majority, National instead chose to make the RMA worse by jumping into bed with the Māori Party.

“I never thought Labour would be more promising than National on RMA reform, but right now that’s where we are.

“However, it is worth considering that there have been 18 attempts at RMA reform since 1991, and if anything the Act has gotten longer, more Byzantine, and constrictive of New Zealanders’ opportunities.

“ACT is prepared to work with the Government in order to reform the law. This is important work the National Government refused to do.

“The real test is whether the Government is prepared to replace Part II, the ‘Purpose and principles’ part of the RMA. These sections require councils to consider a weird and wonderful concoction of conflicting objectives such as ‘the intrinsic values of ecosystems’ when making any decision.

“The principles should be replaced with the guarantee that property owners have the right to do as they please with their land so long as they are not harming the others’ enjoyment of their property. That would represent a shift from council command and control to freedom under the law for New Zealanders.

“A generation of young Kiwis have been locked out of home ownership because successive governments have failed to act on planning red tape. It is critical that the supply of land be increased in order to bring down housing costs.

“New Zealand is nowhere near consenting the number of houses we need to be. In the 1970s, 13 new homes were consented for every 1,000 New Zealanders. We are now consenting just seven.

“Since 1993, construction costs have increased by 212 per cent, but the price of an Auckland section has increased by 903 per cent. The housing crisis has been created by local and central governments artificially constraining land which makes houses more expensive.

“The main cause of income inequality and poverty in New Zealand is the fact that the poorest households, which spent 27 per cent of their income on housing costs when the RMA was passed in 1991, now spend 54 per cent of their income. This is the legacy of the Resource Management Act.

“ACT has long said we need to change the RMA which gives councils the power to restrict new development. We should adopt the Productivity Commission’s report Better urban planning report for cities of over 100,000 people so that in urban environments there is more land available.”

“It makes no sense to use the same law that protects Fiordland’s natural wonders to decide whether a paddock in Henderson can become a subdivision.

“However, changing land use planning will not lead to more land for housing if there is no infrastructure to get to it. The Government needs to share GST revenue from new developments with councils to encourage them to plan for more new homes.

“These are critical reforms and ACT is prepared to work constructively with the Environment Minister to ensure we get them right. Until we address land supply and infrastructure funding, affordable housing will not become a reality.”