New Zealand’s strong building growth continues both nationally and in Auckland, with March 2017 figures showing strong increases for the month, quarter and year on the same periods in 2016, Building and Construction Minister Dr Nick Smith says.
“In Auckland the number of dwellings consented during March was 20 per cent up on the previous March, to 942 – the highest for March in 12 years. This isn’t just a one-off; the number of consents issued for the quarter was up 8 per cent to 2254, while for the year it was up 7 per cent to 10,199. This is the fifth straight year of strong growth in residential construction, making it the longest and strongest building boom in Auckland history.
“It was the same story nationally, with a 20 per cent increase in consents for March from the previous March, to 2779, a 9 per cent quarterly increase to 6949 and a 10 per cent yearly increase to 30,626. The level of residential investment nationwide is also at a record high of $12.7 billion, an increase of 15 per cent on last year.
“This ongoing strong growth shows the Government’s programme to increase housing supply is working, with the sector growing about as fast as it practically it can.
“Residential construction’s strong growth is also being matched by high levels of investment in commercial buildings and infrastructure, which has hit all time high of $6.8b, up 8 per cent on the previous year to March.
“This strong growth in residential, commercial and infrastructure investment, both in Auckland and nationwide, confirms that New Zealand is experiencing its strongest building boom ever and reinforces the strength of the New Zealand economy.”
The Our Fresh Water 2017 report released today confirms the direction of the Government’s reforms for improving the management of fresh water, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.
“This is the first comprehensive and independent report on the state of New Zealand’s fresh water and arises from the Government’s Environmental Reporting Act that came into effect last year. The issues identified in respect of nutrients, E. coli, sediment and fresh water ecology are not new and are being addressed as part of the Government’s fresh water improvement programme. The value of the report is in providing a robust, independent baseline so future progress can be independently verified every three years.
“The report highlights that New Zealand’s fresh water challenges vary significantly across the country and that the problems have arisen due to agricultural and urban development over many decades. The overall picture is that pollution from nitrates is increasing, from phosphates is decreasing, from E. coli is stable and that water clarity had been deteriorating but has improved over the past decade.
“It confirms New Zealand’s most significant fresh water quality challenge is diffuse nitrate pollution. The problem is worst in urban environments but the negative effects impact on a greater number of rivers and lakes in rural, pastoral environments. The first caps on nitrates were set in 2011 in Taupo and now 18 catchments have limits, as the Government’s National Policy Statement on Fresh Water is implemented. This progress will need to continue if these long-term negative trends on nitrates are to be reversed.
“This report is also a strong endorsement of the Government’s direction in improving the swimmability of our rivers and lakes. It confirms the validity of the recently announced grading system, levels of risks of the swimmability categories and that the current level of swimmability of our rivers at 65-70 per cent. The Government’s plan to improve 1000km of river and lake margins per year to achieve 90 per cent by 2040 is ambitious but achievable, with initiatives like national regulations excluding stock from waterways.
“The Government’s programme of work includes tighter regulation of nutrients, new provisions for protecting water ecology and the development of good management practice for farmers and other water users, as well as a record $450 million investment in fresh water quality initiatives. Our programme is about openly reporting the problems and a practical plan of initiatives which will improve water management.
“This report gives improved information but not a complete picture of New Zealand’s water management. Our new national regulations on water metering that took full effect last 1 November will ensure the next report provides far more comprehensive information on water use. The other area where more data is required is in respect of sediments. Fresh water is one of New Zealand’s most valuable resources, and this three-yearly independent stocktake will become a critical reporting document for ensuring positive progress.”
The Government is activating a Temporary Accommodation Service to assist Edgecumbe residents hit by the recent floods, Lead Minister for Edgecumbe, Anne Tolley and Building and Construction Minister Dr Nick Smith announced today.
“This service is to help people displaced when the Rangitāiki River broke its banks and flooded the town of Edgecumbe," says Mrs Tolley.
"We are still assessing the damage to know how many homes will need to be replaced and how many repaired but it is clear assistance will be required for a significant number of families for temporary accommodation.”
“The Edgecumbe Temporary Accommodation Service (ETAS) has been activated by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to help people affected by the floods," says Dr Smith.
"The ETAS team will collect registrations from displaced people who require temporary accommodation, establish what accommodation options are suitable and available and connect them together. The service has proved very successful in the Christchurch and Kaikōura earthquakes, and the level of damage and displacement justifies us establishing this new service in Edgecumbe.
“I urge anyone who has a current or expected need following the Edgecumbe floods to register their details at www.temporaryaccommodation.mbie.govt.nz Alternatively, call 0800 779 997 to discuss your requirements.
“I would also urge tenants and landlords of rental properties to visit www.tenancy.govt.nz to familiarise themselves with their tenancy rights and obligations following an event like this."
The Temporary Accommodation Service continues to provide support to households in Kaikōura and the surrounding regions following the November 2016 Kaikōura earthquake. It received 128 registrations from households there. The same team also helped more than 6,500 households affected by the Canterbury earthquakes find temporary accommodation, over 1,100 of which were in Government established villages.
“This is the first step in providing assistance. We are working with Councils and other agencies on exploring options for emergency and temporary housing and the information obtained from this new service will help inform future decisions on the most appropriate support required," says Dr Smith.
A Government grant of $2.6 million is to be provided to the Hurunui and Kaikōura districts to repair waste facilities, recycle earthquake debris and manage hazardous waste, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith said today in Waiau.
“An important part of the earthquake recovery is the careful management of the thousands of tonnes of additional waste, particularly hazardous materials. The demolition and rebuild work needs to be done at pace but we also need to manage the waste properly so we do not create environmental and health problems now and into the future,” Dr Smith says.
“This grant is to help the councils rebuild their waste facilities, recycle as much as possible of the huge increase in waste and to put in place effective measures to carefully manage hazardous waste like asbestos.”
The Kaikōura-Hurunui Earthquake Recovery Waste Project will receive $2.636m in a special grant from the Government’s Waste Minimisation Fund administered by the Ministry for the Environment. The special grant is being made outside of the normal annual funding round because of the urgency and advocacy of the local councils and MP Stuart Smith, who wrote to the Minister with concerns about the waste problem.
Funding of $1.606m will go to Environment Canterbury for hazardous substance management, particularly asbestos, $360,000 to Hurunui district for infrastructure repairs and case management, and $670,000 to Kaikōura district for asbestos management, infrastructure repairs and increased recycling support.
“This funding will support repair and expansion of the resource recovery parks at Amberley, Waiau, Hanmer and Kaikōura. We want to recover as much as possible of the reusable materials, such as bricks, tiles, timber and hardfill. There is also the opportunity to reuse building components like windows and doors from homes being demolished for ones that are being rebuilt so as to maintain their character and heritage,” Dr Smith says.
“This project and grant is also about ensuring effective management of hazardous waste like fluorescent lights, old chemicals and asbestos. There is a particular focus on asbestos because an estimated 237 buildings are likely to contain the hazardous substance. This funding will help survey buildings, provide advice to owners on safe demolition and provide two permanent and two mobile hazardous waste facilities.
“This waste minimisation project is an important additional component of the Government’s wide ranging support to the Kaikōura and Hurunui community in response to November’s devastating earthquake. It is about ensuring we care for the environment as well as the people, housing and infrastructure.”
I move that the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill be now read a third time.
This Bill is a critical part of the Government's programme to increase the supply and affordability of housing, to grow the economy with more jobs and higher incomes, and to also improve our environmental management.
The Bill is the second phase of our reform programme that began with a major Bill in our first term but for which we were unable to progress in our second term because we could not secure a Parliamentary majority. It is a significant milestone that today we will pass this 250 page Bill involving 40 substantial changes in over 700 specific provisions after multiple rounds of technical advisory groups, public consultation and negotiations with other parliamentary parties in this parliament.
Parties opposing this Bill are doing New Zealand a disservice. In the committee stages they quibbled at the edges and tried to manufacture myths but they have been unable to mount any credible argument against the substantive reforms in this Bill.
This Bill introduces National Planning Standards so as to simplify the 80,000 pages of resource management rules and policies, more than 1000 per council, that make the RMA such a nightmare for New Zealanders to navigate. A country of 4.7 million people cannot justify this level of bureaucracy. It makes common sense that we have standard zonings, standard ways of measuring the height of buildings, standard definitions and a standard format for our plans.
The Bill radically changes the way plans are written by introducing a new streamlined and collaborative process. This matters because it takes on average seven years currently for a council to complete a new plan and that is just too slow.
We know this new streamlined process works because our Government has used it through special legislation with our two biggest cities of Auckland and Christchurch. The overwhelming message is that the process was robust, the plans better, and the result achieved in a fraction of the time.
I am equally appalled that members opposite are opposing the addition of natural hazards to the matters of national importance. Earthquakes, floods, cyclones, tsunamis and landslides are not something to play politics over. The recent quakes in Christchurch and Kaikoura, the floods in Auckland and Northland earlier this year and the flooding of Edgecombe today are reminders that New Zealand has more than our share of significant natural risks. This change was recommended by the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch Earthquakes because planners had been so diverted by the more politically correct requirements of the current Act that those hazards were overlooked. Every responsible member of this House genuinely concerned about the wellbeing of our country should be backing the inclusion of this important requirement into the most central part of the RMA – its purpose and principles.
One of the biggest issues facing our country right now is the supply and affordability of housing. I am gobsmacked at members opposite who demand this be addressed but then come down to this House and oppose the very measures that will make a difference.
Report after independent report, be it the Productivity Commission, the Treasury, the OECD, The New Zealand Institute, or from the Property Council, make plain that the supply of land is at the core of the problem. The numbers speak for themselves. The cost of building an average 170 square metre home in Auckland has increased from $120,000 25 years ago to $360,000 today, a threefold increase. But the cost of the average section over the same period has gone from $53,000 to $530,000, a tenfold increase. You cannot pretend to be serious about improving the affordability of housing unless you are prepared to address the price of new sections and reform the very Act, the RMA, that governs their creation.
This Bill introduces a new specific requirement on councils to free up land supply. It removes appeals on resource consent for residential developments. It reverses the presumption in favour of subdivision. It removes the double charging system of development and financial contributions to a single tighter regime. These will all help bring the cost of sections down.
The Bill is also a help to getting the road, rail, water, telecommunications and electricity infrastructure built, to support our strongly growing economy. It will speed up the process for getting designations and consents. The changes to the Public Works Act give more generous compensation to affected landowners but also include a financial incentive payment for early settlement, that will help get infrastructure built more quickly.
Another important issue this Bill progresses is that of our water quality in enabling national regulations requiring stock to be fenced out of waterways. Only three of our 16 regional councils have any rules on this. National rules are the sensible way forward backed up by an instant fine regime. Members opposite cannot credibly cry foul over the state of our waterways and then vote against these practical measures.
There are also environmental gains in the new provisions that will require offshore platforms to have decommissioning plans. There has been experience overseas where petroleum companies, having exhausted the oil and gas, then leave the huge cost of decommissioning to taxpayers and this bill addresses this problem.
This Bill also tackles the problems of those thousands of unnecessary consents that cause so much frustration and cost. I have an example right now in Nelson of the Rutherford St Kindergarten moving just 100m up the road to new premises, and the parents and committee having to fundraise for over $50,000 of resource consent and related costs. I could bore this house for hours with examples of minor projects like decks and carports costing more to consent than they cost to build. This addresses these problems with provisions that give councils the power to waive the need for consents, the new ten day fast-track process for minor issues and the ability to resolve boundary infringement rules, issues with only the immediate neighbours consent.
The iwi participation arrangements in this Bill are about making existing provisions in the RMA in Sections 6,7 and 8 more practical and workable. It will enable councils to work out practical ways for iwi to participate in the process and help the system work better by getting early involvement. The law is plain that decisions on plans and consents remains with councils and that councils cannot be forced into an agreement. There are many councils that already have such arrangements and they are proving to work well for both iwi and resource consent applicants as a consequence of greater clarity about who to consult and what issues are of importance to iwi.
There are dozens of practical provisions in this Bill that will reduce bureaucracy and red tape. It tackles the problem of the RMA being used by councils to duplicate issues that are already regulated in other statutes such as building insulation standards, telecommunication regulations, fishing laws, workplace safety requirements or hazardous substance rules. We need a regulatory system that leaves no gaps but which also avoids double ups. The changes to the Reserves Act and Conservation Act align notification periods and enable joint hearings so we don’t have two separate processes debating the same project and issues.
Mr Speaker, I need to conclude by acknowledging the mountain of work that has gone into this Bill over many years. I particularly want to acknowledge Hon Amy Adams who in the last term of Parliament put huge effort into many of its provisions, to Scott Simpson who worked tirelessly in chairing the Select Committee, Hon Te Ururoa Flavell and Marama Fox and their team in the Maori Party who have worked so hard to find compromises and ways forward, to Tim Bennetts and George Riddell in my Beehive Office, and the capable Ministry and PCO teams.
The passage of this Resource Legislation Bill is a significant milestone for this Government. It delivers on reforms planned and promised over many years.
It will make houses easier to build and more affordable.
It will reduce unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy for kiwi homeowners, farms and businesses.
It will help our country build the infrastructure to support a growing economy.
This Bill is a litmus test for MP’s as to whether their intent is in playing politics or doing what is right for our country.
I urge this Parliament to pass this complex but necessary reform.
The successful passage today of the 250 page Resource Legislation Amendment Bill through its third reading is a major milestone for the Government’s reform programme, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.
“The reforms in this Bill will help increase the supply and affordability of housing, grow the economy with more jobs and higher incomes, support infrastructure investment and improve environmental management,” Dr Smith says.
“The 700 clause bill makes 40 significant changes to the Resource Management Act, Public Works Act, Conservation Act, Reserves Act and the Exclusive Economic Zone (Environmental Effects) Act.
Significant provisions in the Bill include:
National planning standards to reduce complexity and cost Streamlined planning process to improve responsiveness Discretion for councils to exempt an activity from consents Strengthening of requirements to manage natural hazard risks New 10-day consent category for minor activities New requirements for council to free up land for housing New provisions to enable stock exclusion from waterways New provisions requiring decommissioning plans for offshore platforms More generous compensation for land required for public works Better alignment with other Acts like Reserves, Conservation and EEZ Collaborative planning process to encourage community-led solutions Improved Maori participation arrangements
“The RMA became law 25 years ago but since then it has become excessively complex and expensive. We currently have 80,000 pages of RMA plans and rules, or an average of 1000 per council. The new national planning standards will hugely reduce the bureaucracy and the new streamlined planning process will speed up the time it takes to write replacement plans.
“These reforms will reduce the number of consents required by thousands. Councils will have a new power to waive the need for consents for minor issues, and a new 10-day first-tracked consent will be available. This boils down to things like homeowners wanting to build a deck having to consult only with an affected neighbour, and no consent being required for issues that involve minor or temporary rule breaches.
“This Bill is pivotal to resolving New Zealand’s long-term housing supply and affordability problems. The cost of a section in Auckland has increased tenfold over the past 25 years, from $53,000 to $530,000, as compared to the threefold increase in the cost of building, from $120,000 to $360,000. The key solution is making sections easier to create and more affordable. This Bill introduces a specific requirement on councils to free up land, removes appeals on residential developments, reverses the presumption in favour of subdivisions and removes the double charging system of financial and development contributions.
“The introduction of natural hazards into the core principles of planning and consenting is critical to New Zealand lifting its management of risks from earthquakes and floods. This change was recommended by the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch Earthquakes and I am appalled that on a day of floods affecting communities like Edgecumbe, opposition parties are opposing this sensible extension of councils’ planning responsibilities.
“There are important environmental gains in this Bill. We need the national regulation-making powers to get stock out of our waterways, while provisions requiring offshore platforms to have decommissioning plans will ensure taxpayers are not left with environmental liability.
“The Iwi Participation Arrangements provisions will provide a better framework for councils to meet their existing consultation obligations. The provisions do not change councils’ decision-making rights on plans or consents. They simply provide a mechanism for councils to meet their obligations under sections six, seven and eight. Councils that have these arrangements are finding it is better to have iwi involved early in the process as it avoids delays and costs further down the track.
“This reform delivers on National’s Bluegreen agenda of supporting economic growth, more houses, better infrastructure and less bureaucracy while ensuring New Zealand’s environment is well managed and protected.”
Parliament will today debate the committee stage of a Bill that is the second phase of the Government’s substantial reforms to the Resource Management Act (RMA), Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.
“This Resource Legislation Amendment Bill is an important part of the Government’s long-term programme to increase housing supply and affordability, support a growing economy and jobs, and improve environmental management. We completed the first phase of reforms in our first term but were unable to secure Parliamentary numbers in our second term. This Bill, containing 40 changes, is the most substantive change to the RMA since it became law 25 years ago,” Dr Smith says.
“The biggest changes to the law are in the content and way plans are developed. The current 80,000 pages of RMA plans and rules, or on average 1000 pages per council, are excessively complex and expensive. The process for writing a plan takes seven years on average. The new national planning standards will hugely reduce the bureaucracy and the new streamlined planning process will speed up the time it takes to write replacement plans.
“These reforms will reduce the number of consents required by thousands. Councils will have a new power to waive the need for consents for minor issues. A new 10-day first-tracked consent will be available. Boundary issues like building a deck will be able to be resolved by simply getting a neighbour’s consent. The gains from the changes will save homeowners millions of dollars in direct costs and delays.
“There are important environmental gains in this Bill. It is critical that management of natural hazards is added to the central principles of the Act. We need the national regulation-making powers to get stock out of our waterways. The provisions requiring offshore platforms to have decommissioning plans is important to ensuring taxpayers are not left with environmental liability.
“The Mana Whakahono ā Rohe/Iwi Participation Arrangements provisions will provide a better framework for councils to meet their existing consultation obligations. The provisions do not change councils’ decision-making rights on plans or consents. They simply provide a mechanism for councils to meet their obligations under sections six, seven and eight. Councils that have these arrangements are finding it is better to have iwi involved early in the process as it avoids delays and costs further down the track.
“This Bill has been eight years in the making. The Government has taken the time to get it right, and we look forward to it improving New Zealand’s environmental management and supporting jobs and growth while increasing our housing supply and affordability.”
Design standards and building laws will be reviewed in response to an investigation into structural damage to Wellington’s Statistics House in the Kaikōura earthquake, Building and Construction Minister Dr Nick Smith says.
Dr Smith today released an independent panel’s findings into the performance of the building during the 14 November 2016 quake, focussing on its design and construction, and the land influences on it.
“The performance of Statistics House in the Kaikōura earthquake was unacceptable and could have caused fatalities. This quake was large and unusually long but a modern building like Statistics House should not have had life-threatening structural damage. The building was designed to the industry practice of the time but this did not fully account for the effects of beam elongation during an earthquake, an issue that was deficient in the Concrete Structures Standard at the time of the design.
“The design flaw is quite specific to highly ductile framed concrete buildings with pre-cast floor slabs and particularly those with multi bay frames. We need to follow up on similarly designed buildings through councils and engineering companies so that where it is a problem, it can be rectified. This has already been done in respect of Wellington as a consequence of the preliminary findings in Statistics House but now needs to be followed up elsewhere. We also need to amend the Concrete Structures Standard to ensure newly designed buildings are adequately designed to cope with beam elongation during long duration earthquakes. This will be done this year.
“A compounding factor was geological basin effects that are not well understood but which have also been observed in other earthquakes internationally. This is not to do with reclaimed land but the amplification of ground shaking in a basin. This phenomena is similar to the way sea waves respond to a wall in an enclosed bay. This is an area of seismic science that needs further research, particularly in respect of Wellington, and to be considered as part of a review of the Earthquake Actions Standard.
“There is a building law issue that arises from this report on which I have asked officials to report. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has limited powers to follow up on design deficiencies like those identified in this report beyond those specifically provided for following civil emergencies. This means MBIE cannot require building owners to follow up on these sorts of potentially serious technical problems. I have asked MBIE to report on whether additional powers are needed in the Building Act.
“New Zealand is at the cutting edge of international seismic design standards but we have not yet solved all of the potential ways a building can fail. Most buildings in Wellington performed well despite the ferocity of the Kaikōura earthquake. We need to take the opportunity following such earthquakes to learn as much as we can and to further strengthen our standards and systems to improve building safety for the future.
“These detailed issues over the performance of modern buildings are important for improving design standards but they should not divert attention away from the far more significant risk to life of older buildings. The Kaikōura earthquake was sufficiently distant from Wellington that the city did not get the dangerous high-frequency shaking that poses the greatest risk to life.
“The largest safety gains for Wellington are to be made in the initiatives requiring unreinforced masonry facades and parapets to be tied back over the next year and all earthquake-prone buildings under 34 per cent of Building Code to be upgraded under the new law coming into effect on 1 July.”
The Statistics House investigation report is available at http://www.mbie.govt.nz/info-services/building-construction/safety-quality/statistics-house-investigation
The housing development at Point England is the sort of pragmatic response needed to overcome Auckland’s housing problems, Building and Construction Minister Dr Nick Smith says.
“The Point England housing development will provide 300 more families with a warm, dry home, enhance the recreational facilities and space for the surrounding community, as well as help settle Ngāti Paoa’s treaty claim and provide a site for a marae.
“This is a choice between land for houses or cows. Eighteen hectares of this site have been grazed by cattle for 30 years. Twelve hectares are to be used for housing. The area of open space accessible for public recreation will be expanded with this development.
“Labour’s contradictory positions on housing and cows are odd. They demand more homes be built but then oppose one housing development after another. They want fewer cows because of concern about water quality and greenhouse gas emissions, except in central Auckland on prime land like at Point England.
“The Government has committed to spending every dollar it receives from sale of the land for the housing development in the community on things like enhancing the recreation, amenity and environment of the reserve and neighbouring Omaru Creek. The huge gains are not just in the 300 additional homes, but helping provide new capacity to accelerate the Tamaki redevelopment.
“The Government is developing housing on dozens of blocks of land and only using reserve lands where they are poorly used and where there is the opportunity to improve overall amenity, as at Point England and the Riccarton Racecourse reserve in Christchurch. It is hypocritical of Labour to oppose this Bill when they have supported reserve lands been used in other Treaty settlements. This Bill is the sort of pragmatic response we need to overcome Auckland’s housing problems."
The Government has welcomed today’s release of the OECD 2017 Environment Performance Review, saying it highlights New Zealand’s green credentials and the strong progress we have made over the past decade, as well as the challenges we need to address, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.
“This report highlights that New Zealand fares well in terms on environmental quality of life. We have good air quality, an exceptionally high proportion of renewable electricity, easy access to pristine wilderness and an advanced and comprehensive natural resource management system,” Dr Smith says.
“This report shows how far we have come over the past decade. We introduced environmental pricing on waste in 2009 and on greenhouse gas emissions in 2010. We have introduced new national policy statements in areas of freshwater management, urban development and coastal management, as well as national environment standards on air quality. We have also made important institutional changes with the creation of the Environmental Protection Authority, new laws regulating activities in New Zealand’s huge EEZ and the new Environment Reporting Act 2015.
“We also concur with the OECD assessment of New Zealand’s future environmental challenges of climate change, freshwater management, biodiversity, reducing the complexity of urban planning and transport funding reform. This report reinforces the importance of the significant work programmes the Government has under way in each of these areas.
“This environmental report card will help us sharpen our future direction and environmental aspirations, as well as learn from the experiences of other countries. I thank the OECD reviewers and the examining countries of Australia and the UK for their contribution to this thoughtful report.”