Mayors dismiss fears new housing authority will strip their powers

The Mayors of New Zealand's two biggest cities both back the Government's new housing authority, even though it has the power to override local councils.

Housing Minister Phil Twyford at the weekend unveiled plans to set up a new department, the Housing and Urban Development Authority, which will have "cut-through powers" aimed at speeding up and streamlining new developments - including overriding local planning rules and bylaws.

"Rather than have a whole lot of different competing agencies we're bringing together in one very capable and very focused organisation," Mr Twyford told Newshub Nation on Saturday.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, who was a Labour MP alongside Mr Twyford when the party was in opposition, said he's "happy to work with the Government" as long as the authority doesn't infringe on people's rights to voice concerns about developments that affect "their property, their land and their future".

Phil Goff.
Phil Goff. Photo credit: The AM Show

"It will look at maybe a dozen projects across Auckland that are particularly complex - for example, intensification around the new light rail route," he told The AM Show on Monday.

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester said his council is ready to go, having worked alongside the Government in developing the authority.

"This is a good idea. Similar to Auckland, we want to build a transport spine from Wellington Railway Station out to the airport - about 23,000 dwellings could be built, but you can't do that through the normal regulatory consent process."

He said, at present, it's too easy for people to delay or block developments over trivial matters.

"Almost every large-scale project we have in Wellington ends up in court - be it the Environment Court, the High Court or the Court of Appeal. That's people's democratic right under the Resource Management Act.

"But we also have situations where we can't build a playground on the Wellington waterfront because some people are opposed to the colour of the surface material. The plastic matting you have on the ground, they don't want it to be yellow - they want it to be blue or green.

"That's just ridiculous and it is grinding things to a halt, so we need some change."

National Party leader Simon Bridges says it's "fine" to have an authority, but real change won't happen without "serious, bold" reform of the Resource Management Act (RMA).

"Next year we will come out with an RMA draft that will bring these things together, that will be serious reform," he told The AM Show.

"I would invite the Government to look at this… they want to get serious on housing, actually let's get on and do what will make the difference. At the moment it's just way too slow to free up land supply."

Asked why the previous National-led Government didn't get there in its nine years in charge, he said there were too many opponents - even from within the governing coalition.

"When we looked at it, the Māori Party, Peter Dunne wouldn't. You looked across the other side, Labour and the Greens, they certainly wouldn't. New Zealand First pretended, Winston [Peters] pretended he would, but he wouldn't.

"Well I'm telling them straight, we will. If they come up with serious RMA reform for New Zealand, we will."

He says National will present a Bill next year with its proposals.