Housing

Kāinga Ora bill more than land acquisition

Legislation to supercharge housing development was tabled in Parliament on Thursday, Dileepa Fonseka reports.

An Urban Development Bill will give government agency Kāinga Ora the ability to compulsorily acquire land for housing but it could be used for much more than that.

"...a vehicle like this could be really useful for regenerating old industrial land or something like a port relocation."

Minister of Urban Development Phil Twyford said its use could extend to a whole range of things whether that be regenerating former Port land or establishing light rail corridors.

"While housing and buildings, particularly urban intensification in our cities was the initial motivation the legislation was flexible enough that a vehicle like this could be really useful for regenerating old industrial land or something like a port relocation."

"In Sydney they've regenerated old port land or old industrial land and turned it into a mixture of commercial, retail and public open spaces."

The legislation will be introduced to Parliament on Thursday, have its first reading next week and trigger a full select committee process that will stretch through the first half of next year. 

Twyford said it would make it easier to green-light large-scale urban development projects and increase housing supply.

“Large-scale urban developments are often too complex for the private sector to do on their own."

Twyford says the new legislation could make projects like a port relocation easier. Photo: John Sefton

Auckland Unitary Plan processes a model

"Specified Development Projects" are the engine of Kāinga Ora, project-based entities that can be created for a narrow or wide purpose. 

It could extend to a general joint venture between central government and a city council, or a city council, an Iwi and a developer, Twyford said.

Projects pushed through SDPs will be sent through a streamlined process similar to the Auckland Unitary plan's independent hearings panels process. 

Consultation are "front-loaded" and undertaken while a plan is being drafted, the plan is released for the public to respond to, and the public can then make submissions to an independent hearings panel headed by an Environment Court judge. 

"If we want to do projects of that scale within our existing cities, around town centres for example, that's a lot more complex."

But appeal rights are limited to matters of law only, Twyford said. 

Kāinga Ora will be able to investigate and create SDPs with the Minister of Finance’s sign-off and that of a responsible Minister responsible - which could be the Minister of Housing, Conservation, or Urban development depending on the nature of the project. 

These are envisioned to be large complex projects that would have required multiple sign-offs from several different agencies under existing legislation. 

"My view has always been that you want an agency like Kāinga Ora...to have the ability to use the public works act particularly in cases where you might have someone who is holding out, blocking a development."

The model, in part, is Auckland's Hobsonville Point, a major housing development that was only possible because of the large plot of unified land available, Twyford said.

"If we want to do projects of that scale within our existing cities, around town centres for example, that's a lot more complex."

Twyford believes an agency like Kāinga Ora could have shaved years off developments like New Lynn town centre redevelopment in Auckland which involved a new bus interchange, undergrounding a rail line and the redevelopment of a town centre. 

"Arguably the kind of powers we're giving Kāinga Ora would have allowed that to happen much more quickly."

Land acquisitions

Land acquisitions can form a part of a specified development project but they don’t have to. They can't be used for Māori freehold or customary land or for areas where Maori have customary rights.

Twyford said the power to acquire land would be used "sparingly if at all".

"My view has always been that you want an agency like Kāinga Ora...to have the ability to use the Public Works Act, particularly in cases where you might have someone who is holding out, blocking a development."

Twyford is hoping the new legislation will make it easier to make large-scale projects like Hobsonville Point happen. Photo: John Sefton

Those powers will have be for purposes of specified works, a broad category which includes work for the purposes of mitigating climate change, developing housing, urban renewal, transport (including aviation and maritime transport), water, energy, or telecommunications infrastructure, or for setting up community and waste disposal facilities. 

Twyford said the bill contains safeguards that ensure the benefits of development are balanced against environmental, cultural and heritage considerations.

The powers are similar to those seen in the Public Works Act, but the land doesn’t have to be offered back to its original owner if the Crown decides to resell it - as was the case under the earlier Public Works Act.

Kāinga Ora

Kāinga Ora, was formally established on October 1, and pulled together three existing agencies; Housing New Zealand, its subsidiary HLC, and KiwiBuild.

The agency forms a big part of the reforms in the Government’s Urban Growth Agenda (UGA), and billion-dollar Housing Infrastructure Fund.

Twyford has previously said Kāinga Ora will have two key roles - being a world-class public housing landlord and working with partners to enable, facilitate and build urban development projects of all sizes.

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