Bye Bye Rural Urban Boundary and Hello Infrastructure Commission?

Does our Urban Development Minister understand the concepts of the Unitary Plan

With the amount of hysterics over Capital Gains Tax happening at the moment a more critical announcement concerning housing and infrastructure in Auckland was totally missed.

I was alerted to a Question from National’s Judith Collins to the Transport, Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford about Auckland’s Rural Urban Boundary (a key policy in both the Auckland and Unitary Plans).

Below is the Primary and Supplementary Questions and Answers between the two members:

7. Question No. 7—Housing and Urban Development. Sitting date: 19 Feb 2019

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Oral Questions — Questions to Ministers

Question No. 7—Housing and Urban Development

7. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Does he remain committed to all of the housing and urban development policies outlined in the Speech from the Throne?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): Yes. This Government has ended the State house sell-off; taken the lead in building more State and KiwiBuild homes, directly building more homes than any Government since the 1970s; started work on our Urban Growth Agenda and removing Auckland’s Rural Urban Boundary; announced the details of the Housing and Urban Development Authority; cracked down on speculators; banned overseas buyers from buying existing homes; passed the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill; consulted publicly on modernising the tenancy laws; and, in line with our confidence and supply agreement with the Greens, started work on rent-to-own and progressive homeownership schemes.

Hon Judith Collins: Why has the Government not yet removed the Auckland Rural Urban Boundary, as it stated it would in the Speech from the Throne?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Because it’s important to get these things right. We’ve done two important things that are about building the platform for removing the urban growth boundary. The first is putting in place new ways of funding and financing the infrastructure that our towns and cities need, because, at the moment Auckland Council is using restrictive provisions in the Auckland Unitary Plan to protect its financial position, because it has no ability to borrow more to pay for the infrastructure needed for new urban growth. That is why we are putting in place new ways of financing infrastructure. We’ve also made significant progress in loosening up the rules and providing support for quality intensification so that Auckland can grow up. If we were to remove the urban growth boundary first, you would simply destroy the market for quality intensification.

Hon Judith Collins: When will the Government free up density controls by improving the resource management system, as it stated it would in the Speech from the Throne?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: We’ve made considerable progress developing instruments of national direction under the Resource Management Act (RMA) that will—and I’ve been working with environment Minister David Parker on this. We’ll have more to say on it shortly, but the national direction under the RMA will clearly proscribe and prescribe the content of district plans to encourage quality intensification.

Hon Judith Collins: When are we going to see land freed from restrictive rules that stop the city growing up and out?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: This year.

Hon Judith Collins: What planning rule changes does he require from the Government to remove the urban growth boundary he has said creates artificial scarcity of land and pushes up the price of sections?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The urban growth boundary and the restrictive land use rules which go with it are indeed one of the prime causes of the absurdly expensive urban land in our country’s biggest city. What we’re doing is replacing the urban growth boundary with a more expansive approach to spatial planning that will protect areas of special value, invest in transport infrastructure, and allow the city to grow. We are going to implement these changes over the coming year and a half—something that that party in Government talked about loosely as RMA reform, but did nothing over nine years; nothing.

Source: NZ Parliament

It seems to me the Minister either has not read both the Auckland and Unitary Plans or does not understand the Urban Geography concepts of how a large City like Auckland works.

The Rural Urban Boundary has set aside large amounts of rural land for later urban development whether it be residential or industrial. This can be easily recognised by the large tracts of yellow Future Urban Zone on the Unitary Plan maps as seen below as an example.

There is enough FUZ land for 140,000 homes (55,000 in Southern Auckland) and at least one large heavy industrial complex with room for several smaller Light Industry complexes as well.

Furthermore the Unitary Plan and Auckland Plan are reviewed every 6-10 years as required by law. If it is found more FUZ land needs to be opened up (than anticipated + Public Plan Changes can not handle all at once) to a live Urban Zone (residential, Centre, Mixed Use or Industry) OR the fact the RUB needs to be moved this is the time it is done.

Infrastructure costs of converting Future Urban Zone land to a live Urban Zoned area have to be incorporated as well. Something the Infrastructure Commission will be factoring in as well. Of that Infrastructure Commission you can read that announcement here: New Zealand Infrastructure Commission unveiled.

Finally is their the demand to go outside the Rural Urban Boundary or even flip more Future Urban Zone land to a live Urban Zone than there is now?

Seems now looking at this (very timely):

New record for building activity in Auckland

Published: 25 February 2019S

New consenting data shows the Unitary Plan is working by providing housing options in the areas where Aucklanders want to live, with more than 90 per cent of dwellings being consented within Auckland’s urban area.

Latest figures from Auckland Council’s Research and Evaluation Unit (RIMU) show the proportion of dwellings consented within the Rural Urban Boundary (RUB) has increased.

The figures also showed that in the year ending December 2018, 10,637 dwellings were ‘completed’ by having a Code Compliance Certificate (CCC) issued, setting a new record for building activity in a 12-month period on Auckland Council records.

In December 2018, 865 dwellings were consented within the existing urban area which is 92 per cent of consents for December. More than half of these consents were for attached dwellings such as apartments, terraced housing or units.

“The Unitary Plan removed much of the regulation around density and since it became operational we’ve seen most of Auckland’s housing growth happening within urban areas” says Penny Pirrit, Director of Urban Growth and Housing.

“Areas that are well serviced by transport are highly desirable and we’re seeing evidence of this in our latest data. In December 38.4% of dwellings consented were within 1500m walking distance of a rapid transport station and this is up from 30.3% in December 2017.

“Through the Unitary Plan we have created more than enough land supply to support Auckland’s growth for the next 30 years and we’re focused on enabling quality intensification in areas that are already serviced by existing infrastructure like water and transport.

“Aucklanders have told us they want strong communities where people can come together and connect. We don’t want to create housing suburbs on the outskirts of our city that isolate people from the rest of the city.”

Other key findings from RIMU’s Auckland Monthly Housing Update for January:

  • 938 dwellings received building consents in December.
  • In the year ending December 2018, 12,862 dwellings were granted building consents in the region.
  • 45 per cent of new dwellings consented in December 2018 were houses, 27 per cent were apartments and 28 per cent were townhouses, flats, units, retirement units, or other types of dwellings.
  • 92 per cent of dwellings consented in December 2018 were inside the RUB. Over the past 12 months, 93 per cent of new dwellings consented were inside the RUB.
  • 869 dwellings were ‘completed’ by having a Code Compliance Certificate (CCC) issued in December 2018.
  • In the year ending December 2018, 10,637 dwellings were issued with a CCC, setting a new record for CCCs issued in a 12-month period.

The full report can be found on Knowledge Auckland here.

Source: Our Auckland

Given where residential developments are happening and no alarm about industrial complexes needing to jump the Rural Urban Boundary is removing the RUB really going to assist in what the Minister wants.

OR rather more like be a burden to Auckland and New Zealand given high infrastructure costs of Greenfield development. If the Minister is looking for problems with housing I say look at the construction industry and Planning side insofar as Resource Consenting (the Resource Management Act is not fit for purpose for cities). Because the issue does not lay with the Rural Urban Boundary.