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Report shows government has failed: Labour

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 28/03/2017

The conclusions in a report on urban planning that's just been released by the Productivity Commission are a polite way of saying the government has dropped the ball for the last eight years, Labour says.

The report says expensive housing and poor infrastructure in cities should be tackled by replacing the Resource Management Act - which it sees as a weakness in the system - with a single law to oversee urban and natural areas.

Releasing its report on Wednesday, the commission said that after being in force for 27 years the RMA did not have strong enough distinctions between built-up and natural areas and tended to favour powerful interest groups over the community.

"Too often, the connection between planning rules and the wellbeing of communities is weak or difficult to justify, the supply of infrastructure and zoned land fails to keep pace with demand in our fast growing cities, and the natural environment is degraded," commission chairman Murray Sherwin said.

The commission has made 105 findings and 64 recommendations.

They include a call for greater oversight of planning by central government, clearer protections for the natural environment and a way to ensure land is rezoned faster when markets and housing stock are out of balance.

Finance Minister Steven Joyce welcomed the findings, saying the government would respond to the report in "due course".

It comes as Environment Minister Nick Smith shepherds a long-stalled and increasingly controversial set of changes to the RMA through parliament, as the government has managed to achieve only a watered-down version of the reforms it has been seeking since 2008.

Labour's environment spokesman, David Parker, says many of the recommendations reflect his party's policies and could have been implemented years ago.

"The government wasted eight years trying to weaken the RMA with constant tinkering, instead of tackling the real road blocks to urban growth that have been a major cause of the housing crisis," he said.

Housing spokesman Phil Twyford says the report highlights the government's failure to provide a national direction under the RMA.

"This is a polite way of saying National has dropped the ball for eight years," he said.

"Freeing up restrictive land use rules so our cities can make room for growth could have been achieved eight years ago by a strong policy statement under the RMA."

Think tank The New Zealand Initiative's executive director Oliver Hartwich also lambasted the RMA, saying it had been amended every 18-months on average, "highlighting just how pointless further tinkering is".

"It is time to start over by carrying over the good parts of the act, and throwing the rest away," he said.

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