Government's plan to fix 'stuffed' housing market

A new directive to councils in the fastest-growing centres would see them grow up and grow out.

The proposed National Policy Statement tells councils in those cities to build more houses in transport hubs and on city fringes. 

Height restrictions will be relaxed to allow cities to grow up in central areas and near transport hubs. There will be growth on the urban fringe too, with greenfield areas earmarked for urban development.

Minimum carpark numbers for new buildings may be axed as too, much space is often reserved for parking.

The plan will focus on Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown.

"Poor quality planning is stopping our cities from growing, driving up the price of land and housing, and is one of the big drivers of the housing crisis," Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford said on Wednesday, at the announcement with Environment Minister David Parker.

"Our housing market is stuffed."

But the Government can't actually say how effective it will be.

When asked for a ballpark idea of many houses will be built, Twyford said: "It's not possible to do that level of economic modelling."

National's housing spokesperson Judith Collins didn't seem convinced of the plan.

"I just think there's a lot of words in here; not a lot of details about what those words actually mean," she told Newshub.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff believes it won't have a major impact in Auckland, as it's already intensifying under the Unitary Plan - Auckland Council's own attempt to deal with pressures on housing.

"I think it's always good to have a National Policy Statement and to judge what we're doing against that, but we're ahead of the game - we already have a unitary plan that allows the city to grow up as well as out," Goff said.

"We're happy to have the growth, but we need the funding to deliver the infrastructure to cope with that growth."

The elephant in the room is the cumbersome Resource Management Act (RMA), which holds up consenting. It delayed developer Sir Paul Adams' project in Porirua by a year.

"It's just a waste, at the end of the day," he said.

With the RMA problems still lurking, he's emphatic about when he'd like to see the National Policy Statement come into effect.

"I would have liked [it] 10 years ago."

There's a second elephant in the room - KiwiBuild - and, once again, the Government is doing damage control over its housing policy.

This time it's about the resignation of the head of delivery for KiwiBuild, Helen O'Sullivan, who has left a fixed-term contract a month early.

This resignation isn't nearly as damaging as that of former head of KiwiBuild Stephen Barclay in January, but the lurch into damage-control is a reminder the scab left by KiwiBuild still hasn't healed.