The government’s Urban Growth Agenda tackles the key issues holding back development in New Zealand and warrants support across the political spectrum, says Stephen Selwood CEO of Infrastructure New Zealand
Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford restated the government’s commitment to addressing housing affordability and supply challenges via the five pillars of the Urban Growth Agenda at the Infrastructure New Zealand Building Nations symposium:
- Infrastructure funding and financing – to enable a more responsive supply of infrastructure and appropriate allocation of cost.
- Urban Planning – to allow cities to make room for growth, support quality-built environment and enable strategic integrated planning.
- Spatial planning to build a stronger partnership with local government as a means of developing integrated spatial planning.
- Transport pricing – to ensure the price of transport infrastructure promotes efficient use of the network.
- Legislative reform – to ensure that regulatory, institutional and funding settings are collectively supporting the UGA objectives.
This is a comprehensive programme and represents the first system-wide attempt to address the causes of the housing and wider urban development crisis, Selwood says.
“The proposed changes are not inconsistent with National’s reform intentions when it was in government.
“It would be great to see cross-party support for change to finally breakthrough the current stranglehold on effective planning, decision making and investment in New Zealand.”
Selwood says successive legislation, principally the RMA (Resource Management Act 1991), the LGA (Local Government Act 2002) and the LTMA (Land Transport Management Act 2005), has disaggregated growth decision making, funding and delivery.
“In places where we’ve had land, we’ve had no infrastructure,” he observes.
“In places with infrastructure, we’ve had no zoning.
“In places with zoning, we’ve had no demand.”
He believes the Urban Growth Agenda knits together the key elements needed to turn a section of land into a new home or business, but only if it’s implemented in full and without delay.
“There is strong industry support to tackle infrastructure funding and financing, and the use of off-balance sheet project financing vehicles now needs to be ramped up and rolled out.”
Well-signalled government commitments to introduce road pricing and open up land for development are now overdue, Selwood maintains.
“These initiatives are critical to tackling congestion, addressing land banking, reintroducing scale to the development market and delivering affordable, accessible housing.”
New Zealand cannot afford continued political stand-off on these important issues, he argues.
“Auckland alone is 50,000 homes short of what it needs to house its population and that number has increased 10% in the last year.”
Selwood predicts the housing and infrastructure crisis will continue to get worse until a substantive change agenda is fully implemented.
“To the extent that the reform programme may cross Parliamentary terms of government, bi-partisan support will be central to success,” Selwood says.