Wednesday, September 11, 2013

RMA Reform?

Amy Adams makes a key point:

"When the RMA becomes the basis on which Councils look to
• Take their own stance on national laws they don’t agree with or
• make rules about how big the front windows can be in our homes, or
• the placement of lounges within houses or
• whether a kid can build a tree house...
…we have to ask whether that really is the enabling, effects-based regime that was to allow almost anything to occur as long as the effects on the environment could be properly mitigated, that the original architects of the Act promised back in 1991."

The RMA has been thoroughly subverted by a noxious combination of:
  • old spatial-style Town and Country Planning Act zonerators and map-squigglers. Hence the MUL's, RUB's etc which have massive economic effects but which are sacrosanct under the present regime.
  • NIMBY's who, without needing to put up much in the way of actual arguments, were able until quite recent decisions re costs, to drag out the consenting process by years and years. This has led, quite inevitably, to the EPA which end-runs this nonsense by taking some decisions up and out of the clueless hands of local authorities. Not that a centralised Gubmint bureaucracy is likely to perform much better, but at least they have less spatial-planning deadweight.
  • A fundamental failure to implement anything resembling the effects-based tests which should have been applied from Day 1.
The effects-based tests Amy refers to are actually much sterner than the zoning-and-rule-based processes which persist now. But this failure has lead directly to the tyranny of zoning: no mo' living over the place ya work at, no possibility of e.g. OAP's living over retail or indutsrial buildings (entertainment during the day, watching over the night), no possibility of building a high-rise apartment in Brighton because the zones didn't permit it, but ya can't see over the dunes at three's a long and extremely sad list.

It leads fairly directly to:
  • 'industrial' dead zones which are an extremely inefficient use of resources (commuting, buildings used 33% of the day, security and miantenance issues)
  • illegal actions (it's amazing how many suburban businesses flourish where owners have high fences, good relationships with neighbours, and quiet work habits) which does not do wonders for trust in officialdom
  • a complete inability to police truly noxious activities (tinny houses, P-labs) - after all, they are breaking no Zoning laws because there isn't a Tinny House Zone on some best to turn Nelson's eye...
  • massive economic deadweight costs as SME's either struggle through protracted and expensive processes to achieve some minor tweak to some squiggle or zone, or just give up in disgust and reduce activity to suit the strait-jacket

YMMV, and other common taters may have different views on the reforms, but there is no doubt in my aged mind that the old RMA is a mare's nest, a fabulous feeding ground for Legal Eagles and other Birds of Prey, and needs a fundmental re-think.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

ACC Deputy Mayor on the Housing Accord

“I’m very comfortable that we haven’t started to bleed out into the countryside.”

Ms Henny Pulse, chair of the Auckland First Unionaterised Council / Unitary Planners (AFUCUP) made this astonishing statement in response to the Central Government's total steam-rollering of the Auckland First's "Unit Rabbit Hutches plan for Urban Densification, Train Sets and Fees/contributions/levies/but/not/rates! funding".

Your humble reporter reminded Ms Pulse of the thousands of 1-10 Ha lifestyle blocks in the immediate vicinity of Auckland, which have served as the expansion outlet for their inhabitants, blocked from easy expansion inside the MUL/RUB/squiggle-du-jour.

"Pouf" she replied, and waved her hands in a gesture which seemed practised.

"We don't concern ourselves with those who choose to escape the City and go play Good Life in the sticks."

"We are here for the downtrodden masses inside the RUB, and we plan Lotsa Affordable Housing for them as part of this Marvy Plan."

"Once, of course, we reach deep into the pockets of those Awful Land-bankers, Greedy Developers, Cowboy Builders, and of course the Marketers, and extract some long-overdue Fees/contributions/levies/but/not/rates! funding from their capacious pockets. We term this 'robbing the rich' but I probably don't want That on the record.."

Your intrepid reporter, hastily concealing the return trip ticket to his Pukekohe lifestyle block, then ventured a follow-up question.

"But, shurely, Ms Pulse - may I call you Henny? - the immediate effect of any such development tax will be to add, and cost-plus at that, to build costs, as these types simply pass it on?"

Ms Pulse paused, then answered carefully.

"Why, we had anticipated That, of course. We've entered into an arrangement with an un-named but gigantic building company as part of our Accord, and for a Modest Fee, this company will have exclusive rights to all such development for three generations or Ragnarok, whichever shall come first."

"This will of course ensure low unit costs, a good deal for our downtrodden masses, and did I mention lotsa Fees/contributions/levies/but/not/rates! funding for our poor yet sagacious Council."

Your by now aghast reporter started to mumble about Cartels and Monopolies, but the Pulse had by now departed, exercising her arms in what seemed like a parting gesture, and counting to herself - one Million and One, two Million and Two, Three Million and....

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Commissioners to administer challenges to TLA Development Contributions.. Egads, Transparency and Appeals. Will the madness Evah stop?

The Left Honourable President-for-life of the Union of Local Gubmint Drones, Larry Fool, has slammed the introduction of Commissioners for the oversight of Development and other contributions.

"Since time immerorial - well, actually, since that lovely Sandra Lee handed TLA's the power to make charges up for 'social and cultural wellbeing' and other chimerae, back in 2002, but I digress - Local Gubmint has proved a marvellous steward of the ratepayers money. We've provided wonderful festivals and entertainments, had a busker on most street corners, and provided Art in every Council-owned chunka dirt that's possible. We've brought happiness and contentment to many lives.

And now this heartless, heedless Gubmint is gonna bring this marvellous outpouring of human creativity to a crashing halt.

And the best part about the Development Contributions which funded quite a lot of this merriment is that Ratepayers didn;t Pay for it! Greedy developers did! "

When your intrepid reporter pointed out to the Fool, that DC's are a cost component of either homes (if residential), businesses (if commercial) or industry (if - er - Industrial), and that therefore by the simple notion of Cost-Plus Pricing, the homeowners are gonna pay anyway via increased housing costs, increased commerical prices or less industrial jobs, he waved his arms airly.

"I;ve practised this arm-waving for - oh - about a decade now. Good, Aren't I?"

Your scribe reminded him that there was actually a question implicit in our last exchange.

Larry waved his arms again - a smooth and clearly well-choreographed gesture.

He narrowed his eyes and answered slowly.

"Well, put it like this. Try and find a Source and Application of Funds statement in our voluminous Financials, which clearly sets out in one place, who pays DC's, and how they are used. There's yer Answer!.

Now, must be off. For some completely unconnected reason, I seem to have a whole pile of Subdivisions to assess for Contributions-that-definitely-aren't-Rates-oh-no-never.