Chatham housing

Dr Oliver Hartwich
Insights Newsletter
29 March, 2019

When Housing Minister Phil Twyford spoke at the Initiative’s retreat last week, I had only one regret about having invited him: Our event is held under Chatham House rules.

You see, under Chatham House rules you cannot report or attribute anything that is said at the conference. This is to facilitate a free exchange of views and ideas.

It was a pity because the Minister’s speech was the best political statement on urban development I ever heard. It was a shame for it to be the exclusive privilege of our attendees to listen to it.

So I was relieved Twyford chose to make his speech available online and published it on the Beehive’s website. The text is required reading for anyone seeking answers to New Zealand’s housing crisis.

Twyford copped serious flak for his struggling KiwiBuild programme – including from the Initiative. But when you read his speech, you can see that the rest of his housing policy is sufficiently ambitious and radical to solve our housing market without recourse to something like KiwiBuild.

The Minister’s analysis of the three big problems facing our property sector was spot on:

  1. A broken system for financing infrastructure
  2. A planning system based on urban containment
  3. The failure of governments until now, both local and central, to actively work with the private sector to enable urban growth and expansion.

Twyford first explained how councils cannot pay for the infrastructure to accommodate economic growth. Just as the Initiative has been pointing out for years, he emphasised the need to have growth pay for itself.

Following that, Twyford turned his attention to our planning system under the Resource Management Act (RMA). This had limited the ability of cities to grow either up or out. Again, we have been highlighting this for many years.

Twyford then stated that the Government aims to reform the RMA with a clear goal: “Our aim is to bring down urban land prices by flooding the market with development opportunities.”

Hallelujah! Amen to that.

Finally, Twyford explained the need for much better coordination between central and local government and other sectors. Again, we could not agree more.

I would also like to report that the Minister was just as convincing and ambitious in the Q&A session as he was in his now released speech.

Unfortunately, I am bound by Chatham House rules.

To read Hon. Phil Twyford’s speech to The New Zealand Initiative, visit the Beehive’s website.

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