No follow through on Nick Smith's land banking threat

Nick Smith (Screengrab)
Nick Smith (Screengrab)

Housing Minister Nick Smith insists there's little he can do to prevent people from land banking without breaking the law, despite just months ago saying he would punish property developers who were slow to build in special housing areas (SHAs).

Dr Smith told TV3's The Nation on Saturday that he's unable to force land bankers to build on a privately-owned plot if they don't want to.

However in his previous appearance on the programme, he denied that there was a land banking problem and said he had put pressure on SHA land owners to stop dragging their feet.

"I have written to... some of those people who have that [SHA] status on their land and said, 'Get on and get your resource consents, your infrastructure, your subdivision progressed, or myself and the council will withdraw that special housing area status'," he said in May.

Dr Smith was forced to admit that no threat was made, with an Official Information Act request revealing that the letters he wrote to property developers had only "strongly encouraged" them to speed up the process.

He said it all came down to the fact that "the Government cannot force a private land owner to invest millions of dollars in infrastructure and houses".

He says they're looking at different measures in attempt to get land bankers to quicken the pace.

"What you can do is create a market in which the incentive is for them to get the houses built," he said.

Despite limited housing stock and skyrocketing prices, Dr Smith says he "won't accept" that his tenure as Housing Minister has been a failure.

"We've worked very hard on a programme that is delivering an increase in supply of housing," he said.

"We've gone from building about 13,000 homes a year when I became minister [and] we're now building around 29,000 houses a year.

"I've got confidence in the programme  we're making progress and we're not there yet."