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ACT wants RMA changed to remove 'built-in bias against subdivision'

At ACT's annual conference, party leader John Banks has outlined specific changes to the Resource Management Act that he says will reverse a bias against subdividing land.

"We face a housing affordability crisis in Auckland," Mr Banks told party members who gathered at the surreal and wonderous Gibbs Farm in Kaipara over the weekend, surrounded by yaks, emu, giraffes and giant artwork.

"First home buyers face housing costs almost as unaffordable as London," the leader said.

The party's new "Freedom to Build" policy document says that

  • In 1980 the ratio of median house price to median income was around 2 to 1
  • In 1990 it was around 3 to 1
  • Today it is 5.3 to 1

For Labour and the Greens, a government created problem requires a government ‘soviet style’ housing solution, Mr Banks said.

Instead, the core problem had to be addressed: the Resource Management Act.

Host Alan Gibbs addresses the conference (via @avancenz).

The 382-page Act had a positive intent when it was introduced, replacing 59 pieces of legislation.

It was supposed to free up development and simplifiy processes.

"Twenty-three years later, it is a 900 page job destroying machine," Mr Banks said.

The RMA had developed a built-in bias against subdivision that had restricted land supply and pushed up prices.

For example, Land two kilometres inside Auckland’s Urban limit is 8.65 times more expensive than land two kilometres outside it.

Mr Banks said ACT's new "freedom to build" policy would give the RMA a presumption in favour of subdivision.

Specifically, the party proposes:

  • Amending section 6 to specify that the protection of private property rights is of prime national importance.
  • Reversing the presumption against compensation in section 85, so that individuals who have their property rights taken or infringed can seek compensation.
  • Amending section 32 to reintroduce a test of the necessity for a provision in terms of the public interest.
  • Further amending section 32 to require that the assessment of costs and benefits to members of the community must be in accordance with the framework used for assessing the costs and benefits of central government laws and regulations.
  • Reversing the presumption against subdivision in section 11(1) so that it asserts that subdivision is permitted unless expressly prohibited by some provision that satisfies the amended s32 test.
  • Amending the right to charge applicants for resource consents under s36(4)(b)(i). so as to ensure the land owners do not end up paying more for a resource consent than the value that will be added to their property.

Comments and questions

You know, I grew up in CA, where the very idea of Mr Banks, that there should be no government regulation of development, destroyed the last remaining wetlands and coastal areas in favor of strip malls, empty office complexes, and overpriced condominiums.

sorry, this concept of libertarianism he and the founder of ACT constantly push is not just a failure of an idea in logic, it's BEEN tried and has been shown repeatedly to be a complete and utter failure historically as well.

Please, those with any sense at all, do not buy into this.

The peoples democratic republic of CA has the most ridiculously extreme planning controls of coastal areas in the world. And a bankrupt government.

All looks sensible and better than Labour's suggested fix.

Here we go again - only "tweaks". One needs to completely overhaul the RMA, starting with taking away council power;

Agree Les, unfortunately the non productive consulting industry spawned by the RMA is now so vast and profitable that it will take leadership with guts to overhaul it. And that is highly unlikely.

Yeah Right ... cos we all know deregulation in the building industry has been good for the country , with the developers no where to be seen ... the taxpayers and ratepayers will continue to pay for the leaky building fiasco for a long time yet. The market has failed and it's time for serious government intervention, that needs to be building houses PROPERLY, and with full consultation of parties that are affected. Stop trampling on everybody in the pursuit of business, it will come back to bite you!

Only someone with complete and utter ignorance of the building industry could describe it as deregulated. Congratulations.

Taxpayers and ratepayers will continue to pay for the leaky building fiasco and it will continue so long as the moronic system put in place by the Labour Government survives making them underwrite the quality and durability of every new building. The proper solution is simply to legislate that government (local and central) is responsible only for health and safety. The market will then look after the problems infinitely more efficiently and effectively.

Probably the same sort of person who blames the GFC on deregulated banking industry - conveniently ignoring that the only industry more heavily regulated than banking is the nuclear industry.

I agree with you entirely ichthyic. In any case Act and John Banks and his cronies are only interested in just how much money they can make never mind the little people and the environment. It is time the Act party collapsed completely.

yeah great, who will pay for all the services required to support the inifinite urban sprawl? It wount be their developer mates or Alan Gibbs. Unfortunately there are practical reasons why we have go to more intensive housing including the loss of productive land which we depend on. If you want to reduce the cost of housing ACT/National need to reduce the stupid speculation and make housing investors pay their fair share of Tax... That would make a much bigger difference to house prices.

The same people who pay for it now - ratepayers. You pay for it in the cost of capital. It makes no difference whether it is new or old, the costs are the same.

Of course this reform would actually reduce urban sprawl by allowing landowners more freedom to use their space more intensively where they wished.

Good. About time too.

NZ homes and buildings are so shoddy/leaky/earthquake prone at the moment. What happens when we relax regulations further?

Nothing different will happen, ratepayers and taxpayers will continued to pay for all problems, regulations or not. The leaky homes are a partly a result of regulation aren't they?

Ratepayers and taxpayers will continue to be forced to underwrite incompetent regulators. Just like they do with leaky homes.

This is not relaxing standards in which housing is built at, this is allowing for more freeing up and freedom to build what you like on your own property. I agree that the council shouldn't foot the bill for mistakes.

John has it right. I for one wont invest another dollar in the present system unless there is certainty and there is change to where people have a right to spend and improve their properties.

Yep, I've made the same decision.

Yep, I've made the same decision.

its time to stop blaming the builder for leay home - houses were build to specifiction laied down by dbh - and these idots still ditcate; further a land developer incurs full cost of building road etc - council does nothing apart from giving grief and upon having done so then receives annual rates on heel of another hard work - get rid of them all

The main issue is dealing with councils, which is costly and high risk in that delays (for years) are common. The priority should be making the process more efficient - i.e., limiting objections to those directly affected (to avoid being subjected to Greenies' green-mail), drop the need to consult with Maori (and be subjected to brown-mail), put time limits on affected parties responding (e.g., give them 14 days) and making it the responsibility of councils to contact affected parties (not applicants).

Also remove DoC's advocacy role, and councils and central govt should stop funding activists groups like the Environmental Defence Society (which is a racket run for the benefit of Gary Taylor and his planning mates).

The Historic Places Trust is even worse. Completely unaccountable to anyone and empowered to declare absolutely anything "heritage".

With no definition of "heritage" anywhere in the legislation or its constitution it can steal private property rights at will - and does.

The Government doesn't fund the likes of Taylor and the EDS, taxpayers do. Why?

One issue that is not considered by all the commentators and politicians is that an awful lot of development land is held by a few people or entities, a case in point being the land holdings of the late Hugh Green. It is in the interests of the owning entity to ensure the supply of developed sections is such that high prices are maintained and, indeed, ensure that sale prices increase. This necessitates ensuring availability of developed sections is restricted. This is what land banking is all about. You can't fault Mr Green for his acumen but perhaps the system that allows this practice should be reviewed.
If land is the stock in trade for a developer then tax its unrealised value growth. This would discourage large accumulations of land holdings by developers. After all, overseas share holdings are in many cases similarly taxed.