Government sets ambitious urban growth agenda

24 Nov 2017 2:52 PM | Anonymous

MEDIA RELEASE

"The Labour-led Government's five point programme to address New Zealand's urban growth challenges could establish this Government as a change agent to rival the first and fourth Labour governments, but more aggressive reform of planning, governance and funding of urban growth and infrastructure will be needed," says Stephen Selwood CEO of Infrastructure New Zealand.

Transport and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford confirmed his plans for change last night at the Infrastructure New Zealand Annual General Meeting in Auckland.

"The purpose of the urban growth agenda is to achieve competitive urban land markets, where supply meets demand and prices cover the cost of growth. Its five components to address New Zealand's chronic tangle of over-regulation, under-funding and fragmented planning are:

  1. Infrastructure funding and financing
  2. A pro-growth planning system
  3. Road pricing
  4. Spatial planning by central and local government
  5. Legislative reform of the Resource Management Act, Local Government Act and Land Transport Management Act.


"The urban growth agenda signals a shift, not an end, in the way the Government leverages private capital to promote public policy. 

"New Zealand's established and highly successful PPP model will still be considered for light rail and other transport projects, but the emphasis of this Government will clearly be on attracting private investment to support housing and wider urban development. 

"The market will need to adjust, but the Government will also need to be aware that a competitive market cannot be sustained without a visible pipeline of potential projects.

"It is doubtful that the identified transport programme will be sufficient to retain skills and investment in New Zealand without urgent action to fill the void created by cancellation of the planned $1.5 billion East West project in Auckland and various social housing initiatives.

"The Government's second point in its programme, to create a pro-growth planning system, will be strongly welcomed by businesses frustrated by red-tape and institutionalised complexity built into our current system. 

"That's going to require reform of the three key planning Acts, the RMA, LGA and LTMA. This is also on the Government's list of priorities, but Minister Twyford confirmed that the Government still has a preference to retaining the RMA.

“Our very strong view is that combined effect of planning system failure, complex local government structures, tortuous decision making processes and inadequate funding are at the root of New Zealand’s housing and infrastructure crisis.

"The desire to build off the past, rather than start afresh, is generally preferable. However, the "effects based" approach at the very heart of the RMA is the root cause of urban growth problems. It hands too much influence to objectors and under-represents the benefits of good planning and investment.

"A more proactive planning regime, with robust national spatial planning and leadership, needs radically different institutions, processes and funding tools.  

"We look forward to working with the Government to advance these, but are challenged to see how such transformation can take place within the confines of existing statutes and local government structures and funding. 

"Finally, it is very encouraging to see the Government has recognised road pricing as a key ingredient to managing urban growth and optimising the transport system.  

"However, if adding capacity to the road and public transport network is not part of every option to address need, we run the risk of establishing a tax on mobility.  

"Higher and higher prices will be needed to suppress travel, ultimately delivering less public benefit. The purpose of road charges is to balance revenue with incentives to optimise travel, not suppress it. 

"Viewed as a package, the Government's urban growth agenda is potentially revolutionary. If successfully implemented, Auckland and other growth cities will for the first time in a generation be able to build enough homes and infrastructure to support their population. 

"All cities and towns in New Zealand will benefit from more flexibility and a reset in our national attitude to growth. This is long overdue," Selwood says.

ENDS

For further information and comment contact Stephen Selwood on 021 791 209


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