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NPS greeted with scorn and scepticism

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 2/06/2016

NZ First's Winston Peters described it as "nothing but a derriere-covering exercise". © Getty Images NZ First's Winston Peters described it as "nothing but a derriere-covering exercise". The government's latest measure to help solve the housing shortage has been met with scorn and scepticism.

Its national policy statement on urban development was released on Thursday, and through it councils can be directed to ensure land supply for housing keeps up with population growth.

Councils must free up land to match projected growth figures, and if they don't they can be required to by law.

Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith says he's looking for a culture change that recognises the national importance of housing, and ensures plans are regularly updated.

However, decisions around increasing housing density or extending boundaries will remain in the hands of local authorities.

Opposition parties derided the plan.

"It's a damp squib, Nick Smith is firing blanks," said Labour's housing spokesman Phil Twyford.

"I'll be interested to hear Auckland Council's response, but I'm pretty sure they will look at the NPS and say `no problem, we're already doing this'."

He got that right.

"For Auckland, it's business as usual," said Mayor Len Brown.

The Green Party's Julie Anne Genter said New Zealanders had been looking to the government for solutions to the housing crisis.

"All they're seeing is Nick Smith waving a planning document around."

NZ First's Winston Peters described it as "nothing but a derriere-covering exercise".

Only ACT leader David Seymour approved, saying the government was going in a direction his party had advocated for decades.

The NPS doesn't say anything about a big issue that worries local authorities - the huge cost of infrastructure for new housing developments.

Local Government NZ, which represents councils, noted this.

"The critical part of delivering housing remains the construction and financing of large scale infrastructure, principally roads, water networks, parks, libraries and other community facilities," it said.

BusinessNZ said the government's gradual approach to dismantling urban limits wasn't sufficiently decisive to stem "dramatic imbalances" in land and house prices.

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