Archive | Sustainability

Lawyers take issue with minister’s urban land target

The Government’s proposed national policy statement on urban development capacity will require councils to ensure land supply for housing & business keeps pace with growth, but partners at law firm Berry Simons say  Environment, Building & Housing Minister Nick Smith is targeting it wrongly.

Berry Simons expressed immediate concern about some of the assumptions underpinning the proposed policy statement and its effectiveness to address Auckland’s housing crisis, and followed that up on Friday with a suggestion that the NZ Government should study the impact of overseas investment on house prices, as the Canadian Government had decided to do.

The proposed policy

Dr Smith said on 2 June: “This new policy is about tackling the long-term root cause of New Zealand’s housing affordability problems. Insufficient land supply in Auckland has seen median section prices rise from $100,000 in 1990 to $450,000 now – an increase of 350%. In the same time, building costs rose 78% and the consumer price index 71%. The high section price compounds the affordability problem because the built home will also be highly priced.”

Submissions on the proposed policy statement close on Friday 15 July.

It would require councils to:

  • provide sufficient land for new housing & business to match projected growth in their region, city or district plans
  • monitor & respond to housing affordability data, building & resource consent data, and value of land on the urban boundaries
  • take into account the difference between planned & commercially feasible development capacity, and provide for over-supply to ensure competition (20% short to medium-term, 15% long-term)
  • co-ordinate their infrastructure and ensure their consenting processes are customer-focused
  • recognise the national significance of ensuring sufficient land is available over local interests.

Dr Smith said: “This policy is about a culture change to support development that connects planning decisions to economics, ensures plans are regularly updated and recognises the national importance of housing.

“This urban development policy is carefully nuanced to the different growth pressures across New Zealand’s towns & cities. There are requirements for all urban areas, but the analysis & directions become greater for medium-growth areas (between 5-10% in a decade) and most demanding in high-growth areas (over 10% in a decade).

“This new urban development policy is part of the Government’s systematic dismantling of Auckland’s metropolitan urban limit. The first step was providing for special housing areas that enable developments to be approved in the interim, contrary to Auckland’s old plans & rules. The second step was the fast-track process for a new unitary plan, to be completed in September. The third step is the Resource Management Amendment Bill that adds new specific functions for councils to provide development capacity, and this proposed policy provides detail on how this is to be done.

“This policy reform process has been based on the comprehensive work of the Productivity Commission, with its high level report on housing affordability in 2012 and its detailed work on the land supply problem in 2015.

“New Zealand’s decline in housing affordability & ownership is decades old and there are no instant or easy fixes. This systematic reform of our planning system is an important component of the long-term solution. This work is complemented by a wide range of other initiatives, such as KiwiSaver HomeStart, changes to tax law on property investment, increased investment in building apprenticeships, Resource Management Act reforms before Parliament, using surplus public land for growing housing, better utilisation of Housing NZ land & building regulations reform.”

Dr Smith said the intention was to finalise the policy and for it to take effect in October, in conjunction with the Resource Management Act changes & Auckland’s new unitary plan.

Questions for government & council

Berry Simon partner Andrew Braggins said: “While the proposed policy statement contains a number of laudable objectives, it is sadly at least 3 years too late and it will not alter Auckland’s housing supply for at least 2 years, if not longer. Worse, if Auckland Council considers that it will be ‘business as usual’ under the national policy statement, then we probably will not see any meaningful change in Auckland’s housing supply.

“To the extent that the proposed policy statement proceeds on the simplistic assumption that rising house prices & a shortage of affordable housing in Auckland is caused by a lack of land supply rather than a demand for housing that outstrips supply, the thinking underpinning the proposed policy statement is flawed and risks misdirecting government & council resources from addressing the real issues. At least 3 key points are worth making:

“The first is that made recently by an economic commentator who said: ‘Freeing up land is one thing. We need houses that are affordable for lower income people.’

“Central government must know – but does not seem to be prepared to admit – that the lack of availability of houses for New Zealanders is not due to lack of supply but rather to demand – that a very large number of both existing housing stock & those being built are being snapped up by overseas investors – young & low-income New Zealanders are simply unable to compete.

“Reports that 46% of all new mortgages in May were to investors are consistent with what we see in the market, that the bulk of special housing area houses are being sold to investors, often overseas investors.”

Wide evidence of foreign buyers

Law firm partner Simon Berry said: “We are consistently seeing that a large proportion of special housing area houses are being sold, generally off the plans, to overseas investors. The same goes for the existing housing stock – I recently heard of an example of an overseas investor purchasing 55 residential properties in a single week. The Government’s scrutiny of the market has overlooked these basic facts – unwittingly or otherwise – but all real estate agents & resource management practitioners know full well that this is happening every day.”

The lawyers’ second point was aimed at the council: “It is equally clear that Auckland Council did not pay nearly enough attention to urban land supply issues when preparing the proposed Auckland unitary plan and, while they might now be undertaking many of the assessments required by the proposed national policy statement, they are only doing so because they were directed to by the independent hearing panel charged with hearing submissions on the plan. In the meantime, the development capacity provided by the plan is well short of what Auckland needs – an issue already acknowledged by Auckland Council when it sought to introduce the out-of-scope zone changes into the plan.

Infrastructure delaying special housing areas

Third, the development of many special housing areas in Auckland is being delayed by a lack of infrastructure. The release of further land will simply not deliver the infrastructure needed to service new development – this is a matter that needs to be carefully planned by the council & its key CCOs, Watercare & Auckland Transport.”

Mr Braggins added: “Not a single new dollar in the recent Budget was allocated to Auckland’s transport infrastructure – but adding new zoned land without infrastructure & the funding to service it is only likely to distract Auckland Council & the Auckland CCOs from providing infrastructure to existing zoned land & special housing areas. This is likely to slow everything down. It’s hard to see what they can do that they haven’t already done without more money.

“No doubt the Government’s reluctance to face facts is due to the contribution that overseas investment makes to the economy. However, they should think twice before they act under this proposed national policy statement and address the other factors that they should know are the root cause of the problem.”

Canada studies role of foreign capital

The lawyers said that, like Auckland, the Canadian cities of Toronto & Vancouver were facing soaring house prices. Over 90% of all detached homes in Vancouver were worth over $C1 million.

“Unlike New Zealand, however, the Canadian Government is prepared to recognise that, although the issue is complex, the major influx of foreign capital into Canada in recent years is playing a significant role in that country’s housing affordability crisis. It has therefore set aside funds to analyse the extent to which this influx of foreign capital is responsible for the rapid price increases.

“To his credit, the Canadian prime minister obviously does not see the evidence of overseas capital contributing to increasing house prices as being ‘diddly squat’ as our housing minister does – nor is he content to simplistically blame Canada’s planning legislation, the existence of green belts or lack of land supply. Demand from overseas investors is clearly a major part of the issue.”

Links:
Consultation document
National policy statement summary
Resource Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 
A way forward for national direction
International approaches to managing development capacity 
BERL research: Business land: problems & causes
Cabinet paper: Approval for public consultation
Cost:benefit analysis of policy options
Regulatory impact statement 
Report summarising submissions made during the first stage of consultation
Productivity Commission inquiry: Using land for housing

Earlier stories:
24 June 2016: Fairgray works through the question: Who’s really the house price villain?
23 May 2016: Is it really a faraway boundary that’s raising inner-city house prices?
11 December 2015: Planning system is next Productivity Commission target
10 August 2015: Council has forthright message for Government on land for housing
19 June 2015: 
Key points from land for housing report
19 June 2015: 
Commission looks behind high land prices
7 October 2013: 
From strawberry fields to urban zones
6 April 2011:
Transformation projects get council endorsement, but only in principle
8 March 2010: 
Council says 435ha MUL shift will create 30,000 jobs
22 May 2009: 
Waitakere councillor takes swipe at ARC over procrastination
6 March 2009: 
Council approves design guidelines for Massey North & Hobsonville industrial areas
3 September 2006: 
Draft business land strategy endorsed, final version out soon
27 March 2005: 
Waitakere wants 3 MUL expansions in growth plan
2 March 2004: 
Residential land supply falls below minimum threshold
2 March 2004: 
Vacant business land capacity falls 26% in 5 years

Attribution: Berry Simon releases, ministerial releases.

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Propbd economic update W16Mar16 – Crisis antidote

An antidote to crisis talk

This one’s not about a crisis but an antidote, a US paper encouraging programmes like Auckland’s Southern Initiative, which has so far been more theoretical than actioned.

Amy Liu, vice-president & director of the Brookings Institution’s metropolitan policy programme, which she cofounded in 1996, said that to put a regional economy on a trajectory of higher growth, industry clusters were the foundation and “good civics” were required: Industry clusters don’t happen without foresight, which cancels out the thinking of those who decry planners as a species, while good civics means engaging diverse stakeholders & perspectives to ensure inclusive strategies.

“The lacklustre US economy is delivering a humbling lesson about economic development: Topline growth doesn’t ensure bottomline prosperity. The potential of economic development is to do what markets alone cannot do: influence growth through action & investments,” Ms Liu wrote.

“Leaders in cities & metro areas have an opportunity to remake economic development – to adopt a broader vision of economic development that can deliver continuous growth, prosperity & inclusion in cities & metro areas.”

In her paper, Remaking economic development: The markets & civics of continuous growth & prosperity, she lay out 5 action principles:

  1. Set the right goals
  2. Grow from within
  3. Boost trade
  4. Invest in people & skills, and
  5. Connect place.

At City Observatory, Joe Cortright has written a supportive assessment, How should cities approach economic development?

Links:
Brookings Institution, 29 February 2016: Remaking economic development
City Observatory, 9 March 2016: How should cities approach economic development?

Attribution: Brookings Institution, City Observatory, Planetizen

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Engineering students to use Housing NZ Glen Innes site for low-impact design competition

Published 11 May 2006


Auckland University engineering students must use LID (low impact design) practices in a competition, launched for them today, to redesign a Housing NZ Corp site at Glen Innes.



The competition was launched by the Auckland Regional Council, Auckland University & Housing NZ Corp. The winning design team will receive a $2000cash prize.


Low-impact design is a practice being adopted internationally to prevent huge volumes of stormwater & contaminants from running off urban areas, polluting waterways & causing stream erosion. ARC stormwater action team leader Earl Shaver said stream erosion was the biggest source of sediment from existing urban areas going into Auckland’s estuaries & harbours.


The LID process involves taking an innovative approach to site design with the focus on:

minimising the amount of run-off & contaminants generated by paved areas
reducing impervious surfaces
increased vegetation, and
avoidance of building materials that leach contaminants.

Mr Shaver said roof gardens, rain gardens & rain tanks were also incorporated into the site to create a functional landscape, and where possible piped streams would be converted back to their natural state.


The 3 competition sponsors hoped it would encourage the engineering students to think outside the conventional engineering approach to managing stormwater run-off: “We want low-impact design to be a foundation to their design approaches early on in their career progress. Having students design the LID concepts for the Glen Innes site will encourage alternative thinking to the ‘cookie cutter approach’ to site development.”


The students will need to consider that any possible redevelopment of the site could provide for a minimum of 1500 residential units, comprising 3-4-storey apartment buildings, 2-3-storey terrace housing & 2-storey stand-alone housing.


The regional council’s regional strategy & planning committee chairman, Paul Walbran, said any future redevelopment of the Glen Innes & Tamaki area would be a golden opportunity to showcase the symbiotic relationship between good urban design & reducing impacts of development on Auckland’s streams, estuaries & harbours.


“The community have stated quite clearly that they want any redevelopment to be aesthetically pleasing while meeting the needs of a growing region – and low-impact design addresses these concerns because it involves reintroducing the natural environment into built areas,” he said.


Housing NZ Corp’s Tamaki community renewal project manager, Stuart Bracey, said the corporation hadn’t yet decided to redevelop its housing at the site, but encouraged creative thinking in low-impact design practices.


“Managing stormwater is a key challenge for any urban redevelopment proposal. Working with the regional council & the University of Auckland is one way of promoting new ways of looking at this challenge and Housing NZ is keen to see what practical & affordable stormwater design solutions the students come up with.”


University civil & environmental engineering lecturer Elizabeth Fassman said it was important that students gain practical experience to take with them out into the workforce: “The ARC & Housing NZ have devised a fantastic concept for a competition that will challenge students to apply classroom learning to a very real, and very difficult, urban infrastructure problem in a manner not typically used by the profession – yet!”


Want to comment? Click on The new BD Central Forum or email [email protected].



Attribution: Joint release, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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Hey presto! A draft sustainability strategy

Published 7 May 2006


2 days after the mayor announced he wanted a taskforce on sustainability, Hey presto! Auckland City Council had a draft strategy prepared already.



The mayor, Dick Hubbard, slipped the idea of his taskforce into a report he was making on Wednesday to the council’s urban strategy & governance committee on a conference in Cape Town.


Come Friday, and the environment, heritage & urban form committee had an 11-page report before it, setting out how to go about putting together a strategy, complete with a policy map, a greening-the-city programme and an appendix containing principles of sustainability from 7 international cities, one of which is Christchurch. The others are in the US, Canada, Australia & the UK.


The report from environmental projects team leader Rennae Corner was dated 26 April, outlined on the agenda but distributed only at Friday’s meeting.


Cross-purposes


One of the difficulties in this council term is that delegations between committees still haven’t been fully worked out. Neil Abel, chairman of the council’s works & services committee, told the environment, heritage & urban form committee a lot of work was already being done on the sustainability issues of wastewater, stormwater & soil contamination.


Cllr Abel made his point twice. He shouldn’t have had to make it once: other councillors should have been aware that their organisation was trying to repair the environment, or at least damage it less.


And the mayor’s announcement shouldn’t have come midway through a handwritten note, but should have been tailored into a coherent presentation of what the council is doing, and what it intends to do.


The mayor & councillors actually employ a person to think on their behalf on the issue of sustainability. Ignoring that fact amounts to sustained idiocy, not sustainability.


Intention signalled


Ms Corner said in her report the council didn’t just have a responsibility to demonstrate leadership in sustainability, but had signalled its intention through the objectives of new chief executive David Rankin.


Following those objectives, an important programme for the year was to develop “a sustainability strategy that identifies a programme of action to move the city towards becoming a sustainable city, and to move the organisation towards corporate sustainability.


“While the council is undertaking many projects & actions that contribute to a more sustainable city, there is no comprehensive strategy which will help the council as an organisation and our communities to think, plan & act in a more sustainable manner.


“This report identifies a process for developing a draft sustainability strategy for the city that will be used to stimulate discussion with councillors & the community.”


Ms Corner said the council had to address 3 questions:


Why is being a sustainable city important?
How does it translate at community level?
How does the council incorporate the principles into its own operations & asset management strategies?

Under the first of those points, she said the council needed to ask:

What is sustainability?
What does it mean for the city?
What are the roles for the council, business & the community?

“Officers, with the help of consultants expert in the fields of urban & corporate sustainability, are currently putting together a draft document that will be used to generate discussions with the organisation, councillors & the community on the final contents of a sustainability strategy for Auckland City.”


Ms Corner said it would draw on best practice here & overseas and:

highlight what it means for the city
propose a vision and identify key principles
identify what the council has already accomplished
identify gaps, and actions to address them
suggest an education strategy
propose a set of indicators to measure progress.

She said the draft would go to the environment, heritage & urban form committee in June (which will probably mean July), then to council & external workshops in July & August.


Related story:


7 May 2006: Hubbard wants 11-15 experts on quick sustainability taskforce, Caughey lays out specifics


 


Want to comment? Click on The new BD Central Forum or email [email protected].


 


Attribution: Council committee meetings, agendas, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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Hubbard wants 11-15 experts on quick sustainability taskforce, Caughey lays out specifics

Published 7 May 2006


Auckland mayor Dick Hubbard sprang a new taskforce on his councillors on Wednesday, this one for sustainability.



Sprang, because the council has been working on a sustainability strategy and, 2 days later, got an 11-page update setting out how to go about it, complete with a policy map, a greening-the-city programme and an appendix containing principles of sustainability from 7 cities in the US, Canada, Australia, the UK & New Zealand. Check that story: Hey presto! A draft sustainability strategy


Mr Hubbard sort-of-announced the sustainability taskforce as he was giving a report to the urban strategy & governance committee on his visit to Cape Town for the ICLEI (International Cities for Local Environmental Initiatives) world congress at the beginning of March.


The mayor proposed a taskforce of 11-15 people, including experts from the private sector and bringing in experts from tertiary institutions elsewhere. He expected a “short & sharp” taskforce term based on a well defined brief, “with the aim of bringing reports through the political system later this year.”


He wanted to see solutions for Auckland – “sensible sustainability, not extremism….. so we’re operating in a leadership capacity, getting concepts & the discussion out to the people.


“This will enable us to set goals, KPIs (key performance indicators) that will measure what we’re doing.”


First taskforce’s ideas “permeating through”


During a week when I heard plenty of hot air and a few good ideas on sustainability – the fad of the moment – Mr Hubbard noted there were numerous definitions of sustainability. He opted for the simple version of the Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Morgan Williams: “Doing more with less.”


Mr Hubbard’s first taskforce was on urban design, set up in June 2005. He said ideas from that “are starting to permeate through.”


Before the new taskforce gets under way it would need to get terms of reference, given a duration. “It is a time for action, and this would be a very good way to bring together the threads on sustainability into one coherent policy,” Mr Hubbard said.


The mayor said the Cape Town conference made him acutely aware of the urgent need to sharpen Auckland City’s focus on sustainability and start taking action: “The conference was a huge wake-up call for me because we are at such a crucial stage right now. We need to take urgent action on such issues as how we deal with our natural resources, being more energy- & water-efficient, reducing our reliance on oil and increased recycling of waste.


“We cannot pay lip service to the word ‘sustainability’ any more. It is not about short-term political opportunism. It is about long-term thinking and gains for our city. We are no longer talking about ‘trade-offs’, we are talking about ‘win-wins’.”


Hucker says this council making progress


Deputy mayor Bruce Hucker, who chairs the committee Mr Hubbard was reporting to, said the mayoral taskforce model had been successful. But Cllr Hucker also noted that the council – following an agenda of different committee structures & aims largely drawn up by him – “had made considerable progress in this term on sustainability & the 4 wellbeings.”


Abel says council already addressing many issues


Neil Abel, who figures he’s actually in charge of implementing sustainability as chairman of the council’s works & services committee, told the environment, heritage & urban form committee (I mention all these committees crossing each other’s subjects to raise a question on sustainability) that a lot of work was already being done on wastewater, stormwater & soil contamination.


“Many of these issues in the water & wastewater areas have been addressed in the last 18 months,” he said.


Zealotry?


Citizens & Ratepayers councillor Douglas Armstrong was, predictably, diametrically opposed to the views of City Vision & Labour councillors: “I find this whole thing very scary because there’s an element of zealotry that’s coming through.” He reiterated his position that many of the issues other councillors wanted to address were better dealt with at a national level: “I say that as an engineer who has been involved with Engineers for Sustainable Development for 20 years…..


“We’re going to scare the hell out of the population….. We have a situation where this country is becoming third-world because we are getting involved in these politically correct arguments.”


Cllr Armstrong also questioned the way the taskforce was introduced: “The right for the mayor to set up a taskforce seems to circumvent the committees structure and I think is wrong, particularly if it affects property rights. This sort of thing makes me very angry.”


Zealotry? Certainly fervour. Cllr Armstrong single-mindedly headed the finance committee on the council in its previous term, under the mayoralty of John Banks, who said after eliminating all minority influence from council committees: “I support the fact that the winner will take all, and the winner will be the people of this city and this country.”


From the sideline, neither this nor the last version of zealotry is particularly pretty. In this term of the council there has been a strong element of support for heritage & the environment, recognising them as having rights not totally subservient to economic advantage.


Much of that now gets boiled down to “sustainability”, with the meaning or real intent lost on the way past.


Caughey gets down to specifics


Christine Caughey chairs the council’s environment, heritage & urban form committee – a committee title which reeks fervour, if not zealotry, if the job’s going to be done as it’s meant to be done. Cllr Caughey got on the council as an Action Hobson candidate opposed to the Citrats’ Eastern Corridor, and reported on sustainability issues with the mayor.


After attending the climate change & governance conference in Wellington in March, she told last week’s committee meeting:

economic modelling suggested achieving vehicle emission restrictions would involve lower, but still positive, rates of economic growth relate to the business-as-usual scenario
New Zealand needed to implement sustainable practices in all development
a national policy framework had to be developed
New Zealand needed to look long-term and scenario plan for the future
it also needed to recognise the lead of technology, business and self-help & innovative practices – “The private sector is ahead of the public sector”
vehicle emissions had to be reduced
there had to be a commitment to public transport, and to sustainable vehicle fuels, and
 all development & operations should reduce their footprint.

From the joint congress of the NZ Planning Institute & Planning Institute of Australia, in April, Cllr Caughey said the sustainability issues for Auckland were compelling:

A corporate sustainability policy and sustainable framework for all council decisions
An organisation which can deliver a new direction, including more integrated decision-making
Greater advocacy  from local to central government for directions on sustainability, and
Greater collaboration between regional & local government.


Website: ICLEI


 


Related stories:


7 May 2006: Hey presto! A draft sustainability strategy


2 December 2005: Council agrees to fund startup for university chair in urban design


3 June 2005: Council ushers in urban design details


1 June 2005: Enough of the appalling buildings, says Hubbard


1 June 2005: Public gets a role in advancing better urban design


 


Want to comment? Click on The new BD Central Forum or email [email protected].


 


Attribution: Council committee meetings, agendas, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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