No copyright on good policy thinking

Dr Oliver Hartwich
Insights Newsletter
16 July, 2021

When opposition parties produce policy documents, they can be overly simplistic and populist. They can be unrealistic because they do not have to be implemented straight away. They can be glorified marketing documents.

ACT’s new housing policy is none of these.

Honest Conversations: Housing and Infrastructure is a breath of fresh air. It is straightforward, realistic and shows the party has understood the economic challenges facing our cities.

The document starts with a summary of New Zealand’s housing crisis. Last year alone, the median house price rose by 30 percent. Worst hit are first-time buyers who are now struggling even to save for a sufficient deposit.

To tackle the crisis, ACT proposes many policies that would be familiar to Insights readers. Just as the Initiative has been arguing, ACT wants to privately fund infrastructure. To do that, ACT suggests combining Crown Infrastructure Partners and the Infrastructure Commission into one body.

Also in line with the Initiative’s thinking is ACT’s proposal to share GST revenue from new housing development between central and local government. Such an incentivisation of local government has been core to our housing thinking. It is also something that I have been promoting since my first housing research project in the UK in 2005.

Further to these measures, ACT wants to see land-use rules simplified so that more land can be used for development. Again, this is something the Initiative has been saying for a long time.

And not just us, by the way. Former housing minister Phil Twyford also pushed for these changes, and some of them have already made it into the Labour Government’s National Policy Statement on Urban Development.

Further ACT proposals include streamlining regulations for building materials, making it easier for international investors to invest in build-to-let projects, and introducing a competitive consenting process.

Look through our past columns, and you will find these ideas reflected there, too. Just as you would find support for ACT’s calls for a meaningful reform of the Resource Management Act and the introduction of road-user charging.

It is always encouraging to see opposition parties come up with good policy thinking. It is even more gratifying for us as a think tank to see many of our ideas entering the political debate.

What matters less to us is who eventually implements these proposals. So, in the interest of solving New Zealand’s housing crisis, let’s hope that the current government steals most of ACT’s ideas. There is no copyright on good policy thinking.

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