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Govt, Labour agree on Auckland housing

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 18/05/2016 By Sarah Robson

Auckland Council is facing mounting political pressure to take decisive action to tackle the housing crisis, with both Labour and the government agreeing there needs to be a serious rethink of how the city deals with urban growth.

And if doesn't, Finance Minister Bill English has warned the government - potentially with Labour's support - could step in and make the decisions itself.

Labour wants Auckland's urban growth boundary scrapped to free up more land for housing in the city's growth areas in the north, north-west and south.

That's something the government agrees with and Mr English says the council is on notice.

"The fact that Labour and National can agree on what in the past has been a pretty controversial proposition, is a strong signal to Auckland Council that central government could step in if it needs to," he told reporters.

Auckland Council's unitary plan, which will outline what the city's future land and housing development will look like, is currently being drafted by an independent panel.

The panel's recommendations are due back in July and from there it'll be up to the council to make the final decisions.

But Mr English said that plan will need to demonstrate that the council can increase the supply of houses.

He doesn't think that can be done if the urban growth boundary remains in place.

"I think Auckland should take Labour's support for abolishing that boundary as a pretty clear signal of where things will go if they don't deliver sufficient houses," he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Labour's housing spokesman Phil Twyford said the boundary creates an artificial scarcity of land and drives up the cost of sections.

"Land inside the boundary is up to 10 times more valuable than rural land," he said.

"It is not enough for the council to progressively add more land zoned for development here and there. That just feeds the speculation that is an inevitable result of having the boundary."

Instead, Mr Twyford is backing the smarter development of those city fringe areas, with integrated planning around transport and other infrastructure.

He also wants controls around housing density freed up, to allow for the building of more low-rise apartments and flats in the city, particularly around town centres and transport routes.

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