Proposed improvements to simplify building fire safety regulations and support their implementation are open for consultation, Building and Construction Minister Dr Nick Smith says.
“We currently have record high levels of commercial and residential construction and this needs to be supported by high quality regulation. We need systems that deliver safe buildings but also enable the design and construction of buildings to be done at pace. These changes will deliver both safety and efficiency gains.
“This discussion document, Consultation on Fire Safety Proposals, is the result of two years of working groups and targeted consultation with stakeholders. The proposals are aimed at further improving changes made to the Building Code’s Protection from Fire clauses in 2012.
“The Ministry of Building, Innovation and Employment has received input from the New Zealand Fire Service, the Society of Fire Protection Engineers, building control officials and architects. The ministry has worked with international fire engineering experts to develop these proposals, and this public consultation is the next step in the process,” Dr Smith says.
Consultation closes on 14 July 2017. For more information and to make a submission visit: http://www.mbie.govt.nz/info-services/building-construction/consultations/fire-review
The Government is phasing down the use of the powerful greenhouse gases called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) used in the air-conditioning and refrigeration industries, to help address climate change, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith announced this morning at the Bluegreens breakfast of the National Party’s northern conference.
“This plan to phase down the use of HFCs is an important part of the Government’s policies for addressing climate change. These synthetic gases are up to 15,000 times more potent in their global warming effect than carbon dioxide and are projected to by themselves raise temperatures by 0.5degC by the end of the century.
“This plan proposes to progressively reduce HFC consumption by more than 80 per cent over the next 20 years. Between 2019 and 2036, New Zealand will reduce the levels of HFC imports from around 1340 ktCo2eq to less than 260, meaning that New Zealand will meet its international commitments ahead of schedule. It will enable us to ratify the Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol early next year and it will also contribute towards New Zealand’s Paris commitment of reducing our overall greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.”
The original Montreal Protocol from 1987 initially focussed on reducing chlorofluorocarbons, and then hydrochlorofluorocarbons, for the harm they do to the earth’s ozone layer and has been one of the most successful international environmental agreements. The Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol was agreed last October at a meeting in which New Zealand strongly advocated extending scope of the Montreal Protocol to address the global warming impacts of HFCs.
“The phase down of HFCs will have implications for New Zealand industries like air conditioning and refrigeration that will need to convert to new technologies. Consumers with heat pumps will not need to upgrade them but future replacements will need to use new technologies. We have calibrated the phasedown timetable to give industry and consumers time to adapt while also ensuring New Zealand positively contributes to the global challenge of reducing greenhouse gases.
“We welcome input on these proposals from industry, environmentalists and consumers, with submissions closing on 23 June 2017. We want to progress this work and the new regulations so New Zealand can lead in ratifying the Kigali amendment later this year,” Dr Smith concluded.
The consultation document and information on how to submit your views is available here.
Two reports released today by NIWA and the Ministry for the Environment on the technical background to the Clean Water proposals will help inform input into the plans to clean up New Zealand waterways, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.
“The Clean Water plan is very ambitious in nationally grading our rivers and lakes for water quality for recreation and requiring 90 per cent to be swimmable by 2040. This has never been done before in New Zealand or overseas, but it is an important step in addressing our water quality issues.
“The grading system has generated significant debate and these reports provide more information on how the grading system compares internationally and the level of precaution they are based on.
“These reports show that the only other jurisdiction that attempts to grade waterways for swimming is Europe. Their grades of excellent, good and sufficient match the New Zealand grades of excellent, good and fair, although the New Zealand proposals for the bottom fair category are more cautious. This analysis shows that if New Zealand adopted the European grading, more rivers would be deemed swimmable.
“The report also notes that the USEPA criteria of waters either being swimmable or not is a bit more cautious, but notes that this has not been applied across all states in the US and requires a small sample size of four, rather than the 100 in the New Zealand proposal.
“These reports also provide more detailed information on the levels of risk from swimming in the different grades of rivers and lakes. The average infection risk when a person makes no assessment of the state of the waterway before swimming is rated at 1 per cent for the blue category, 2.4 per cent for the green category and 3.1 per cent for the yellow category. If a person follows the advice of not swimming during high flows, determined as three times normal flows, the risks drop to 0.3 per cent for blue, 1.3 per cent for green and 2.0 for yellow.
“These reports also confirm that the changes to the National Policy Statement in moving from a wadeable standard of a median 1000 E. coli/100ml to swimmable with a median of 130 E.coli/100ml for 90 per cent of waterways provides for a significant improvement in the microbiological water quality in our waterways.
“The gradings of waterways into different categories for swimmability inevitably involves choosing some arbitrary thresholds. The balance in setting these levels is to ensure we provide sufficient protection for people to swim safely while also ensuring we do not set a level that discourages people from enjoying the outdoors when the risks are low.
“I welcome further submissions from water quality scientists, and others with an interest, on the details of the gradings outlined in these additional reports by 25 May. We want to build wide support for the grading system to enable the focus to be on the significant task ahead in driving improvement.”
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) new Housing Affordability Measure will allow the market to be monitored at a more detailed level, Building and Construction Minister Dr Nick Smith says.
“This Housing Affordability Measure gives more detailed data than other measures offer and allows a better understanding of housing affordability trends. It has been developed independently by Statistics New Zealand and MBIE, with Ministers being informed but not deciding on the measure. The advantage of this new statistic over other measures of affordability is that it is more sophisticated, enabling the affordability for first home buyers and renters to be separated and the measure to be applied to a more specific area,” Dr Smith says.
“Being able to assess housing affordability at a local council level, and a ward level in Auckland, will help central and local government policy-makers identify and respond to affordability challenges that are specific to each housing market.
“Local authorities will immediately be able to use this measure to meet one of their requirements under the National Policy Statement on Urban Development Capacity. The National Policy Statement requires high and medium growth councils to begin monitoring housing affordability (and other market indicators) on a quarterly basis from 1 June 2017. This new measure will help ensure councils’ planning policies support improved affordability.”
MBIE released the measure today as an “experimental statistical series”, meaning it will continue to be refined to ensure it remains fit-for-purpose. The Ministry welcomes feedback on the new measure.
The Government’s KiwiSaver HomeStart scheme, launched two years ago, is continuing to grow, with an increasing proportion of buyers opting for new property, Building and Construction Minister Dr Nick Smith says in welcoming the latest Housing New Zealand Financial Products Quarterly Report.
“KiwiSaver HomeStart is the most generous government support for first home buyers in more than a generation, providing grants of up to $10,000 for an existing home and $20,000 for a new one. It is complemented by enabling first home buyers to access their KiwiSaver funds and a government guarantee for bank loans, called a Welcome Home loan. The support provided for all three programmes in year two (1 April 2016-31 March 2017) has grown strongly over year one (April 1 2015-31 March 2016).
“KiwiSaver HomeStart helped 11,943 first home buyers in year one with $55.6 million of grants. In year two it helped a further 15,038 first home buyers with $72.9m in grants. This growth in assistance is welcome as the most difficult hurdle for first home buyers is pulling together the funds for a deposit. The scheme is forecast to grow to around $100 million next year and is on target to help 90,000 first home buyers with $435 million in grants over five years, as announced in 2015.
“It is also welcome news that the value and proportion of the HomeStart grants being used for new home purchases is growing. In year one, $9.35m was used for new homes, or 17 per cent. In year two, $15.7m was used for new homes, or 22 per cent. This reflects the strong growth in new homes coming on to the market and the Government making access to the scheme easier for new home buyers.
“I also welcome the trebling in the use of KiwiSaver funds for purchasing a home over the past three years. We have seen the level of withdrawals grow from $201m in the year to March 2015 prior to HomeStart, to $457m in the year to March 2016, to $627m in the year to March 2017. These numbers show how KiwiSaver is becoming an increasingly important part of the solution for getting young people into home ownership. I strongly encourage young New Zealanders to join KiwiSaver as a smart medium-term strategy for home ownership.
“The Welcome Home Loan scheme enables people with a deposit of just 10 per cent to access a bank mortgage through a government guarantee. These loans are also exempt from the Reserve Bank’s LVR limits. This report shows growth in these loans from 1053 in year one to 1218 in year two, growth of 16 per cent.
“This report shows the Government’s KiwiSaver HomeStart initiative is successfully helping New Zealanders into home ownership, with 27,000 people receiving grants totalling $128m and $1084m being accessed from KiwiSaver accounts for home ownership. This positive report, alongside the strong growth in home building activity and stabilisation in house prices, shows the Government’s housing policies are working.”
Entries to the 27th annual Green Ribbon Awards are set to close next Wednesday and all unsung environment and conservation heroes are being encouraged to step forward.
“We’ve had some fantastic entries so far. It’s inspiring to hear so many exceptional stories of environment and conservation initiatives being undertaken across the country,” Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.
The Green Ribbon Awards are held annually to recognise outstanding contributions by individuals, communities and organisations to protect and manage the environment.
The categories cover biodiversity, resilience to climate change, waste minimisation, caring for fresh water, coastal and ocean protection, leadership, philanthropy and partnerships, and there is a Supreme Winner category.
“Last year our supreme winner was Te Whangai Trust. Every year they provide half a million eco-sourced native plants and more than 156,000 volunteer hours. They have made a significant difference in the Waikato region, restoring ecosystems, wildlife corridors and waterways’” Ms Barry says.
“We will also be awarding the prestigious Loder Cup for outstanding contributions to the protection of our unique flora and fauna. Previous winners reflect a who's who of New Zealand conservation and include the first recipients Duncan and Davies and Dr Gerry McSweeny.”
“These awards celebrate effort and excellence and inspire others. If you’re making a difference to New Zealand’s natural assets, plants and wildlife, I’d encourage you to put yourself forward and enter the Green Ribbons. We’d love to hear from you,” Ms Barry says.
All finalists will be invited to an awards night banquet at Parliament.
The Green Ribbon Awards close on Wednesday 10 May. To enter the awards, visit www.greenribbonawards.org.nz.
The Government is selling the Linwood temporary accommodation village to the Christchurch City Council, which will continue using them for people affected by the earthquakes, Building and Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith announced today.
“The Council will use the 42-unit Linwood village for social housing tenants displaced during earthquake-related repairs and redevelopment and other residents displaced as a result of the earthquakes,” Dr Smith says.
“The Otautahi Community Housing Trust will manage the tenancies at Linwood village on behalf of the Council. Existing tenants will be able to remain in the villages until their repairs are complete.”
The units can remain on Linwood Park until 2021 but may only be used by people displaced by the earthquake.
The reserves will be remediated by the Council when the village units are ultimately removed. Decisions on the future use of the units will be made by the Council and the Otautahi Community Housing Trust at that time.
The Government established the temporary accommodation villages on council reserves at Kaiapoi and Linwood in 2011 and Rawhiti in 2012 to provide local housing options for families while their homes were repaired. The Kaiapoi village was decommissioned in August 2016 and the 20 units sold by public tender to commercial and social housing purchasers.
“The Linwood village has provided a temporary home for 560 households, with an average tenure of 3-1/2 months. But demand for earthquake-related temporary accommodation has been falling from a peak in June 2014 as EQC and private insurer-led repairs and rebuilds progress and the housing market recovers,” Dr Smith says.
“The Government was in negotiations to sell the remainder of the houses at Rawhiti and Linwood to the Christchurch City Council when the Kaikōura earthquake struck last November 14.
“We consequently decided earlier this year to offer the 20 Rawhiti units for sale to farmers with homes significantly damaged by the Kaikōura earthquake. There has been strong interest in these units, agreements in place for over half and the relocations will begin this week.
“These new uses for the villages are ensuring they continue to contribute to earthquake regeneration while there is still an ongoing need.”
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.