Govt's land price plan - more fizzer than big bang?

Housing Minister Nick Smith (Getty)
Housing Minister Nick Smith (Getty)

The Government is being accused of firing blanks rather than a silver bullet when it comes to its latest strategy to cool land prices.

The Housing Minister says the national policy statement will force councils to make more land available for development, cooling prices and stopping land banking -- but critics say it will change little.

It was meant to be the Government's big bang housing announcement, although arguably it's a fizzer.

At same time the Auckland mayor and Prime Minister had their hands on the detonator at a launch for the City Rail Link, Nick Smith was in the capital lobbing his own policy grenade, aimed at bringing the Auckland Council to heel -- forcing it and others to open up more land for development and jam a lid on section prices that are up 350 percent since 1990.

"For those first home buyers cute solutions do not exist -- I am taking a long-term, considered strategy," said Mr Smith.

That strategy means councils must free up twenty percent more land than growth projections show they need or risk the minister over-riding them.

"It's just a bureaucratic mechanism -- it's more red tape telling councils to measure this, project that. It won't do anything to shut down the speculators and land bankers," says Labour's Phil Twyford.

And from where Auckland Mayor Len Brown sits, there's nothing new here.

"In terms of working with the Government to get greater land supply, we have done as much as we possibly could," says Mr Brown.

"We are well ahead of the game on that front."

While the Prime Minister and Mayor seemed to find their groove today, in recent weeks the Council and Government have been increasingly out of step, with the blame for the Auckland housing "challenge" being laid squarely at the Council's feet.

It is never perfect in the garden of Eden, and it's certainly never perfect between Government and the Council.