Property investors get behind urban boundary removal


Planners need to stop thinking of Auckland as a city and realise it is a region before the housing crisis can be properly addressed, says one researcher.

New Zealand Initiative research fellow Jason Krupp is welcoming calls from across the political spectrum to scrap Auckland's urban boundary.

In a rare political alliance, National and Labour have said they are both prepared to force Auckland Council to abolish the boundary to free up land and take pressure off the high house and land prices.

Mr Krupp says a "free-for-all" on land is needed to help growth, and Auckland Council has been deaf to market forces for too long.

"The shortage of land in Auckland is not a physical one, it's an artificial one," he told Paul Henry. "Someone drew a line around the city decades ago basically to make infrastructure provision a bit easier."

Mr Krupp says Auckland is not a city: "Auckland is actually a region and we need to plan accordingly. We need to invest accordingly. We need to invest in high-speed infrastructure that gets people into Auckland City."

Andrew Bruce from the Property Investors' Association is also welcoming the proposal, but cautions it is not a silver bullet.

"In the end we do want houses that are affordable," he says.

"We don't want to see these massive shortfalls that we've got at the moment. Most economists agree there's at least a 40,000 shortfall of houses."

Mr Bruce says council also needs to address housing density, to allow for more dwellings on existing land.

The boundary was first put in place to help stop urban sprawl, but Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford says that hasn't worked.

"It has driven land and housing costs through the roof. It has contributed to a housing crisis that has allowed speculators to feast off the misery of Generation Rent, and forced thousands of families to live in cars, garages and campgrounds.

"Labour's plan will free up the restrictive land use rules that stop the city growing up and out. It will stop land prices skyrocketing, and put the kibosh on land bankers and speculators."

National is welcoming what it calls a "repositioning" by Labour, with Finance Minister Bill English saying Auckland Council is "on notice" that it needs to take action ahead of its Unitary Plan release in August.

"The fact that Labour and National can agree on what in the past has been a pretty controversial proposition, is a strong signal to Auckland Council that central Government could step in if it needs to."

Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith says: "Tight city limits and not allowing intensification is at the core of Auckland's housing problems. It is limiting new housing developments, driving up section and house prices and encouraging land banking.

The idea has already been backed by BusinessNZ, as well as lobby groups across the political spectrum including the Taxpayers' Union and the Ratepayers' Alliance