Government prepared to seize land for housing projects

New Housing Minister Phil Twyford has fired a warning shot at land bankers, warning if they won't give up land needed for housing developments, the Government could seize it. 

As he moves into his new office, Mr Twyford is well aware he has a lot of heavy lifting to do. 

"We've got a Housing Minister now that accepts there is a housing crisis," he says.

Labour has promised to build 100,000 affordable homes, and, as part of its coalition agreement with New Zealand First, it will set up a state agency to do so. 

That agency will be charged with identifying unused Crown land and opening it up for development.

"This is going to be one of the ways that we deliver KiwiBuild and the promise of 100,000 affordable homes over 10 years," says Mr Twyford.

But it would also have the power of compulsory acquisition. In other words, the ministry could force private land owners to sell to the Government.

"You don't want to have one land banker holding out a massive new development that's going to deliver thousands of new homes," says Mr Twyford. 

He says the law does not need to be changed to allow the agency to have that power - it already exists under the Public Works Act

The act contains a variety of special powers, currently used to get land that is, for instance, standing in the way of a motorway. That could be applied to KiwiBuild. 

"The minister is hereby empowered to acquire, under this act, any land required for a Government work," it reads.

"You might want to have it in your back pocket, but you'd use it very, very sparingly," says Mr Twyford.

Also on his to-do list is fixing Auckland. He's very interested in a plan from Infrastructure New Zealand to build a satellite city in Paerata, just north of Pukekohe. 

As a new minister, he says the task of bringing the housing crisis under control is huge.

"We're going to throw everything at it."

Newshub also understands Mr Twyford wants to investigate taking all spare Crown land, currently owned by ministries, and putting it in a general pool to be dipped into when needed for classrooms, infrastructure or, of course, the 100,000 homes he's promised.