Houses under construction at Hobsonville Point (Photo: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)
Houses under construction at Hobsonville Point (Photo: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

The BulletinAugust 22, 2019

The Bulletin: Govt takes aim at housing development NIMBYs

Houses under construction at Hobsonville Point (Photo: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)
Houses under construction at Hobsonville Point (Photo: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Twyford and Parker propose new urban development policy statement, Tamihere unveils transport plans, and Māori King issues challenge on child abuse.

For a lead today, a nudge towards one of those deeply dense announcements that could end up having a huge impact on the cities of NZ. Ministers Phil Twyford and David Parker have proposed a new National Urban Development Policy Standard. The aim is squarely about allowing cities to grow both up and out, and is a high-level attempt to put in place conditions which will eventually solve the housing crisis. They’ve basically set out plans for how development could override previous Council and Resource Management Act constraints.

Stuff’s story on it was very much aimed at the former, with a topline of the new NPS-UD giving the central government the ability to “sideline NIMBYs”. Councils would also have to “ease restrictions on building heights and intensive housing in city centres.” On both points, and in general terms, it would theoretically push Councils to allow situations like the long running battle over a Dominion Road development to go ahead. While National Policy Statements aren’t about granular detail that Councils must follow, they provide a general direction.

Politik has gone into detail about what the NPS-UD involves. It is “quite firm on the need for more intensive development,” particularly in areas where there are jobs, amenities, infrastructure and high levels of demand. More high density development would also potentially be allowed in places like Ponsonby and the wealthy surrounding suburbs, which is currently more dominated by character villas. As for the ‘out’ part of the development equation, it ties in with the recent government announcement for protection of ‘elite soils’ – prime horticultural and farming land – so that the most appropriate land is chosen to develop. Local Government NZ plan to do detailed policy assessment on the NPS-UD to ensure it doesn’t simply add more red tape to the development process.

Of course, none of this will happen overnight. It’s still just a proposal, and it probably won’t apply until 2022 anyway. So there is a while to go before we’ll see any effects of this. And there are criticisms – National’s Judith Collins says it is a “wooly” and overcomplicated statement, and ACT’s David Seymour says it’s yet more talk. But it’s probably significant that their criticisms were based on the politics of it, rather than the policy itself, which suggests some common ground on the need for new direction. So if it is put in place and works effectively, then looking decades down the track it might come to be seen as something of a turning point for New Zealand’s urban development.

Auckland mayoral candidate John Tamihere has pledged to scrap some light rail plans and the regional fuel tax if he’s elected, reports Stuff. He has also indicated road projects would be prioritised, and the existing rail network extended to the airport, and across his planned superstructure harbour bridge. Tamihere also stressed that he’d be able to convince central government to put up more money, through political pressure.

In what is becoming something of a theme of the campaign, Phil Goff again responded with utter derision about how realistic the plan was. That was elaborated on in an NZME debate hosted by Heather du Plessis-Allan, which at times got fairly rugged. It was followed up by analysis from the NZ Herald’s council chiefs Simon Wilson and Bernard Orsman, which in my view was the real show to tune in for.

The Māori King has issued a challenge on child abuse, in relation to controversy around Oranga Tamariki, reports One News. King Tuheitia told those gathered for his annual coronation celebrations at Tūrangawaewae Marae that they had to find solutions, rather than apportioning blame. Earlier in the week, PM Jacinda Ardern was told by Māori Party president Che Wilson “to show courage when it comes to Māori,” and reminded her that she had asked te ao Māori to hold her to account at Waitangi.

Fletcher Building has bounced back from a bad year with a hefty $164 million profit. While only two of the seven divisions have improved earnings, assets have been sold and debt paid down, reports Maria Slade for The Spinoff. It comes amid the ongoing outcry over Fletcher’s development of Ihumātao, a piece of land valued by the Council at $36 million.

Some promising early signs have emerged from a piece of research into stopping kauri dieback. Radio NZ reports on the Vic Uni study, which found that kānuka extract could potentially be useful in stopping the microbial spores that spread the tree disease. Interestingly, the jumping off point for the research was indigenous knowledge from the Ngāpuhi iwi, who have long observed the different waves of plants in the growth of a forest.

The GCSB has given Vodafone the go-ahead for their 5G network, reports the NBR (paywalled.) That might not seem like the biggest deal in the world, but it is significant given the same was not provided for Spark, and their partnership with Huawei. Vodafone will be working with Nokia, from Finland.

Here’s an interesting piece about technological solutions to climate change politics, by economist Peter Fraser and freshwater scientist Dr Mike Joy on Newsroom. Their argument is that relying on such fixes – like the methane-reducing compound currently in development – is that it allows things to continue pretty much as they are now. They say instead, farming practices need to change on a broad and deep scale, even though that’s politically difficult.

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From left to right, the 2019 Silver Scrolls finalists: Tiny Ruins, Tom Scott, The Beths, Aldous Harding, Benee.

Right now on The Spinoff: The Silver Scrolls finalists – announced this morning! – talk about what they like about each other’s work. Dave Hansford explores the conservation of kea through the use of 1080, and the complex task of saving a species. Kate Hannah demands universities squarely face up to rife sexual misconduct on campus. Eric Crampton comes out in strong support for the proposed Parliamentary Budget Office.

We’ve also put out our first local election race briefing, which we’ll do a lot of over the coming weeks. Today’s one is about the Otago Regional Council, who is standing, and what are the main issues for this deceptively important arm of local government.

And finally, I had a day off last week. And in the middle of it, I went to go and see a daytime movie, and wrote about it. A friend described it variously as “the saddest tale ever told” and “too sad”. I’ll let you be the judge.

For a feature today, some really bad news. The Amazon rainforest is on fire, has been for a few weeks now, and that brings with it grave climate implications. As Vox outlines, it’s not even the most high-profile persistent forest fire burning right now. Here’s an excerpt:

In recent years, humans have made the destruction from wildfires worse at every step. Suppression of natural fires has allowed dry vegetation to accumulate. Human activity is changing the climate, which is forcing some forests to heat up and dry out. People are building ever closer to areas ready to ignite. And people end up igniting the majority of wildfires, whether through downed power lines, errant sparks, or arson.

But the Amazon rainforest, which remains drenched for much of the year, does not burn naturally. Instead, the fires are ignited by people. Farmers use slash-and-burn tactics to clear land for farming and pasture, though it’s illegal in Brazil this time of year due to fire risk.

Illegal logging operations in Brazil have also been known to start fires as a tactic to drive indigenous people off their land and to cover their tracks. The Amazon rainforest has experienced a record number of fires this year, with 72,843 reported so far.

The ASB Classic have secured the return of the GOAT, Serena Williams. That might have seemed unlikely after her last appearance in Auckland didn’t go that well, but tournament organisers have pulled it off. The NZ Herald has a good piece on how it was achieved, and how hard tournament director Karl Budge worked to make it happen.

And speaking of organisational coups in the sporting world, this is a really good piece on the women leading Netball NZ out of the dark days. LockerRoom have profiled Jennie Wyllie, the current CEO, who managed to get Noeline Taurua to both coach the Silver Ferns, and then stick around for another few tournaments, both on short-term deals. It’s a big, brave move, but one that has so far reaped huge dividends.

From our partners: With several high profile government objectives in the spotlight, a single ministry could drive better outcomes across them all. Robyn Holdaway, senior policy advisor at Vector, makes the case for a Ministry for Energy.

That’s it for The Bulletin. If you liked what you read, and know other people who would find it useful, pass on this signup form to them.

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