John Elliott: Enabling housing supply and other matters amendment bill

Submissions closed last week for public comment on the Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters Amendment Bill proposed by the National Party’s Nicola Willis and, in a surprise move, supported by the Labour Government.

The aim is to progress the bill through the select committee process and pass it into law before the end of the parliamentary session this year. Such indecent haste with legislation that will inevitably impact the lives of many in the main cities prompted us to submit.

Already Auckland Councillor Christine Fletcher has been called to order for her comments about the bill, but it was clear from observing the online submissions that were presented over the last week that the complexities of the issue require a much more considered consultation with stakeholders and experts than appears to be allowed for. The built form of our cities and living environments impacts the health and wellbeing of citizens in a directly physical but also psychological way.

The Auckland Unitary Plan, after a long drawn out and expensive process by engaged ratepayers, council officers and stakeholders, has resulted in a framework which allows for the appropriate development of increased urban density, supported by the necessary infrastructure, all the while conserving the amenity that is valued by communities across the city - not least of which are the heritage precincts that tell the story of the city and its people.

Aucklanders have produced, at great birthing pains, a plan for their city already. There is no need to apply further legislative rulings as proposed in the bill to effect the required intensification when controls already exist that will deliver nearly one million additional housing solutions and ensure that Aucklanders can live in quality environments that sustain health and wellbeing.

It seems that a blanket one-size-fits-all approach to intensification needs will not take into account the physical specifics of existing built environment such as heritage and the amenity valued by communities. If a standardised framework is imposed on geography, culture and environment, which may in reality not deliver the most efficient utilisation of sites when 3 x 3 stories is the default, urban centres across the country are at risk of becoming homogenised, tightly packed, characterless living environments.

A free-for-all approach to rapid development will almost certainly plunge us into another crisis like the leaky home tragedy as new and inexperienced developers see dollar signs and communities bear the brunt of poor quality design and construction.

While cities all over the world have managed to preserve heritage precincts and create healthy modern conurbations that enrich lives in a post pandemic 21st century world where environmental considerations are imperative for survival of people and planet, we need regulations with foresight.

All over the world rewilding is proposed as an answer to climate crisis, so is it future-focussed to be creating dense urban conurbations when technology allows citizens to work at a distance?

Recent protests have highlighted the rural urban divide that amplifies the undeniable inequities within our populace. 'The Great Resignation' is seeing families abandoning jobs and city living for more healthy lifestyles.

If provincial regions receive support and development funds so that New Zealanders can thrive living closer to nature, wellbeing will be enhanced and a more healthy and balanced society might result. (JOHN ELLIOTT)

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Published 3 December 2021