Labour, National work together to cut house building red tape

Anna Whyte
Source: 1News

The Government and Opposition are working together in an effort to cut red tape and speed up the build of housing in New Zealand. 

House keys (file picture).

Sweeping changes mean on most sites in Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington and Christchurch up to three houses would allowed to be built, up to three storeys, without resource consent. Currently most plans only allow for one home, up to two storeys. 

It is expected it could result in about 48,000-100,000 new houses to be built in the next 5-8 years, with the new rules expected to come into force by August 2022. 

Some other councils such as those in Whangārei, Palmerston North, Queenstown and Dunedin must adopt new medium density residential standards if the area is experiencing acute housing need. 

Other measures introduced were to bring forward a national policy statement on urban development - described as a "a powerful tool that removes overly restrictive planning rules and requires councils to plan better for growth".

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - JUNE 29:  Houses under construction at Hobsonville Point on June 29, 2015 in Auckland, New Zealand. The development of 1000 new homes at Hobsonville Point has begun. The homes will be ready from 2017 with 30% of the new builds expected to be sold for under $550,000.  (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

Housing Minister Megan Woods said the changes "will enable more homes that are attractive to first home buyers to be built in areas closer to their work, public transport and community facilities". 

"Working with National, on these changes delivers stable, enduring policy on urban density. This gives homeowners, councils, developers and investors certainty about enduring planning rules," Woods said.

The bipartisan effort between National and Labour was described by National leader Judith Collins as "truly historic". 

Collins said New Zealand's resource consent process makes it too difficult to build more housing in New Zealand.

"Today is truly a historic moment for New Zealand: a time when our two major political parties stepped up together to give Kiwis the right to build," Collins said.

"It is a positive reflection on our democracy and our system of government that, when the time requires, National and Labour can work together to tackle the big issues facing New Zealand.

She said the law change would allow New Zealanders "to do more on their land without needing a resource consent, reducing the time, cost and complexity that too often greets those who want to build new dwellings".

Environment Minister David Parker said there would be exemptions in the medium density rules where intensification is "inappropriate, such as where there is a high risk of natural hazards, or a site has heritage value".

National's housing spokesperson Nicola Willia said the change would also make it easier for new dwellings to be added to existing sections in major urban areas, which would in turn increase competition for buildable land.

"This legislation takes power away from town planners and gives it back to the people they serve. It will allow our cities to develop and grow, with a range of housing types to suit people at different stages of life."

Urban area - Estimated additional dwellings (5-8 years)

Auckland - 27,900 - 53,700
Hamilton - 3,400 - 12,200
Tauranga - 3,800 - 8,500
Wellington - 6,500 - 14,000
Christchurch - 6,500 - 17,200

National previously proposed a raft of changes earlier this year, putting in place powers similar to those used to speed up house builds following the Canterbury earthquakes.