Unmanaged Urban Sprawl A Step Backward

By Wright Communications

The Government has recently suggested the planning processes currently in place are creating unnecessary barriers to housing development and its Housing Accord Bill allows for it to override local authorities and push through additional home consents to address affordability.

Bryce Julyan, NZPI chair, says the Housing Accord Bill may be useful to councils that are experiencing housing demand, so long as development is undertaken in accordance with good planning principles - good master-planning for comprehensive housing developments, for instance.

"But most informed thinkers agree that sporadic or ad hoc development, not aligned with a clear and locally-endorsed plan, is a backward step and out of line with good practice in the developed world," he says. "It is a blinded view to think that allowing tracts of land to be developed outside a planned framework is a good outcome."

Mr Julyan says if the government wishes to influence housing affordability there are much more appropriate and useful ways it can intervene to do this."

"Housing affordability is a complex and multi-faceted issue," he says. "It is difficult to force without 'hands-on' involvement and a holistic approach - things like reducing the costs of construction materials, building houses rather than simply opening land for development, incentivised schemes for first home buyers, rental developments and schemes that use existing urban land so that productive land is used for employment and business over non-productive uses."

The NZPI believes that far from being a 'stop' on development - as recently suggested by Finance Minister Bill English - good planning begins a process for enabling development, whilst managing effects on the environment, within a defined and understood framework.

It allows local authorities to plan for development that are well served by infrastructure, services and community facilities.

"There is a need for balance and choice in the type and form of housing and while expansion of towns and cities may be appropriate, unmanaged and unplanned sprawl driven by speculative subdivision is taking us back 50 years," says Mr Julyan. "It's an outdated and unsophisticated approach out of line with a developed, competitive nation in the 21st century."

"If New Zealand is to truly compete on the world stage we must adopt best practice and improve the quality of our urban management, not reduce it."

Mr Julyan says that if planning has such an effect on the economy as Mr English recently suggested, then it follows that good planning is able to have a positive effect on the economy.

"Apart from the undemocratic implications, the ability for the Government to override local authority plans is something we should all be very cautious about," he says. "The Government should be able to work with the planning profession and local authorities to innovate tools to enable good growth without holding a threat over local government and community plans."


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