When is a MDRS not a MDRS? When Christopher Luxon agrees to it, and then disagrees to it, it seems.
What am I talking about, I hear you say? Well, the MDRS (medium density residential standards), universally agreed to last year by both Labour AND National (AND the Greens and ACT too I think?) – that one, that only just came into being a short while ago – now Luxon says we have got it wrong. I’m in agreement with him that we have got it wrong – but totally disagree with him over what. He wants to stop it focusing on redeveloping existing, and to instead focus on developing fresh new Greenfield sites further out on the edge of cities around New Zealand. He’s completely wrong, of course (by my standards), but a couple of questions remain – WHY has he said this now, and WHY did he agree to it in the first place? First though, what exactly did he say?
The NZ Herald report says: “He revealed the change of heart during question time at a public meeting in the North Shore suburb of Birkenhead today, where he said: “I think we’ve got the MDRS wrong.” Questioned later by the Herald, he said he was “ruthlessly obsessed” with building more houses, but would prefer to see a much greater focus on greenfields developments. He was not formally announcing new policy just yet, but he and the party’s housing spokesperson, Chris Bishop, would have something to say within a few weeks. “Watch this space.”“
Yes, Chris Bishop, that complete genius, as thick as two short planks of wood. Could they possibly find anyone more stupid to listen to? You’d be pretty hard pressed to do so, although apparently he is the best offer in a National caucus. The big thing to note there is that Luxon’s two hopefuls for the future, Nicola Willis Street and Chris Bishop, are then put at loggerheads over that announcement, as Willis was the key proponent of signing up to the MDRS in the first place. If you recall though (and the Herald evidently does not), Willis signed up to the MDRS with her boss Judith Collins by her side / at her back / controlling the strings – and remember that the daylight access planes were being set at 6m straight up and then 60º angle inwards – except that on or around the day it went to the Select Committee for rubber-stamping, it had gone to just 5m straight up and then 60º, but a couple of weeks later, when it passed into law, it was just 4m straight up and still 60º angle. What had changed? Apart from a lowering of 2m at the boundary, the key thing had changed was John Key mark Two, aka Luxon. So, Luxon never like the policy as much as Willis did, and now he and Willis’s rival, Mr Bishop, aka the Bishop of Lower Hutt, are going to have to duke it out.
But where has this push to go back to Greenfield come from? Who on earth wants us to do that?? Well, obviously, the same shitty house building developers that have been whining at his breadbasket since the MDRS arrived on the crime scene. Their method of construction involves building the same one story house, one by one, on green field sites at the outer edge of cities, as they have done for the last 50 years. About the most boring, least sensible way of creating new housing the world has known – and also the cheapest. Cheap for the builder, but not good for the planet. “Screw the rest of the world, I have a Ute and a nail gun, I’m doing fine here Jack.”
But so Why has JK#2 aka Luxo done that? I’m guessing, lobbyists from the volume builders. Lobbyists from the middle-class investors, who have run out of ways to make money without having to pay tax. You know what I’m talking about.
But what would I do differently, if I were Chris Luxo? (and believe me, this is not someone I want to be, heading up the bunch of muppets baying on the Opposition seats in Parliament). Well I would change the MDRS rules alright – and make sure that there was an option to ensure Design Quality. The DQ ration has currently been purposefully designed out by Labour and National in the original MDRS – there is zero chance of anyone objecting to your 3 x 3 proposal, no matter how badly designed and butt-ugly it looks or acts. The system is set up to make sure that by ensuring that everyone has a chance to bite that particular cherry, everyone has an equal chance of biting a rotten cherry as well as a healthy one. There will be ugliness – there will be screw ups – there will be dogs bollocks hanging out everywhere for all to see. It is not going to be pretty.
Malcolm McCracken says (more elegantly than me) on his Substack that: “We will have to wait a few weeks to see the detail of National’s proposed changes. In the meantime, it is key to remember why enabling urban intensification is critical to meeting our goals and how reverting to largely greenfield growth will not achieve the outcomes we want, nor is something we can likely afford. All new homes in our cities create the need for new infrastructure. However, the challenge greenfield development comes up against is higher costs per unit for the supporting infrastructure, when compared to urban intensification. Building within the existing urban area utilises existing capacity and can deliver more efficient services like public transport and infrastructure, even if some upgrades are required. The nature of greenfield areas, is they are some of the lowest-demand places to build, due to lack of proximity to jobs, education and amenities. This equates to lower densities meaning the high infrastructure costs to connect new suburbs are split across a low number of dwellings.”
I’m interested to know, from the readers of the Eye of the Fish – what do you think? Good idea, or not? Vote winner, or not? Change MDRS, or not?
ACT didn’t support the MDRS. Probably a vote winner for National, old homeowners seem to mostly hate intensification of almost any kind.
I think DQ would be abused by council’s and essentially render the MDRS meaningless. I’d prefer to see a minimum zone along the lines of what the coalition for more homes pushed for – perimeter blocks. That won’t be National’s angle though.
It’s not that people want Greenfields, it’s that they want intensification even less.
Nationals policy sounds like back to the status quo – ie leaving it up to councils. Given what we know about the profile of council voters, it’s essentially leaving it up to old homeowners. Which is the oot cause of the problem.
Thanks for the correction Conor – I wasn’t sure whether ACT did or not. I think you’ve pointed out something helpful though – that if ACT wanted something different, and National wants ACT to have their baby, the that is probably one of the key reasons that Luxo changed tack.
Building in greenfields areas is as sensible as ploughing your crops into the ground, and amounts to the same thing with concrete slab horrors plonked on top of verdant foodbaskets. Everyone will have a lovely house in a lovely suburb (except they won’t because they aren’t) with plenty of room for their colonialising lawns and their overworked cars. And they’ll spend their lives in traffic wondering why the long skinny public transport lines are so shit, because they will be. And we’ll be widening the motorway to 12 lanes and building second access roads to Wainuiomata and Fucksville, Upper Hutt, and grizzling about how loooong it takes to get to the airport and the hospital (and how you can’t park there when you get there) and maybe they should move them somewhere pointless. Like Kapiti. And on and on. Morons. Just morons. Ruining the world for lobbying wankers and boring boomers.
Oh bravo Senor Chico, Bravo !!! Couldn’t have said it better myself. You really should be writing for the Fish, although, like me, your employer probably wouldn’t be happy to hear you express those opinions. I
Also… this smells a bit fishy:
That’s assuming anyone would employ me.
I was in Wainuiomata last week and – oh my goodness – that road! What a bloody nightmare to have to use that every da ! To which problem the Bishop merely says build a second road, thereby making life hell for those in Naenae as well as Wainuiomata. The infuriating thing is, there is a tunnel, or at least the start of a tunnel, for a rail line through the mountain.
There is probably a bus going there, although I don’t know of it and didn’t see any buses – but it looks like a seriously financially depressed area – shops closed down and boarded over. Mind you, you could say the same of Cuba Street as well I guess.
But building 2000 extra houses at the arse end of the most depressed suburb of a satellite city that itself feeds off Wellington – the land would have to be pretty damn cheap to convince me to live there. That access road – or even a second access road – would NOT want to tackle that twice a day. Mind you, if we are all working from home in the future, does that matter?
Current tunnel to Wainuiomata doesn’t work, the elevation to the valley floor is 100m above the entrance portal making the gradient too steep and there is no exit portal. It seems like recent announcements from the national party are geared towards getting voters back from the act party, but I’m not sure if it is helping them attract ‘middle nz’. Can’t wait for my $5.00 prescriptions to be revoked…
I looked at what ACT say about the MDRS and found this link
They say that they support-
Share GST from construction projects with councils so they have more resources to build the infrastructure needed to facilitate new housing development.
Replace, the Medium Density Residential Standard with Auckland’s Mixed Housing Suburban zone. The MHS allows more intensification, but with design standards that are sympathetic to existing neighbourhoods and property owners.
Allow Councils to unilaterally exempt areas from intensification where they face infrastructure challenges, so we don’t get sewage in the streets and other problems.
That sounds fairly reasonable to me but I haven’t looked at the detail
As for densification, guys like Friday Homes and the Williams Corp are buying up places in the Hutt with big yards then moving the house to the back or demolishing it and whacking up townhouses
Personally I could never understand why Labour promoted the MDRS – it just never seemed the right fit for them policywise
We need to address our infrastructure deficit – I notice Martinborough said no new sewerage connections as their plant is at capacity. With the current level of immigration I expect more of this
Perhaps if the cost of fuel went up a bit people might think a bit more before driving
Also I think that it is a bloody good time to buy a house
It is indeed a great time to buy a house, if you have some cash sitting in your back pocket waiting for a chance to invest. Def not quite as good if you have to get a mortgage!!
Interesting about the ACT policies – they are indeed pretty sane and reasonable attitudes. The Auckland Mixed Housing Suburban Zone does sound a little more able to control the excesses of developers wee dreams – but it is still stuck in limbo in Auckland too. There’s a huge swathe of Auckland that is currently sitting there with uncertain zoning – and it will be disgruntled Aucklanders who decide the election, not so much the rest of us. Luxo is just following the trail of crumbs here to its logical conclusion.
I think Luxon is a bit of a personality bypass
I will never forget how, when he was running Air NZ, any flights into small regional airports that had no competition were priced exorbitantly which may be correct behaviour for a corporate but is not becoming of a national airline in my books
He makes me think of Muldoon’s immortal line about Rowling-
“He’s a shiver looking for a spine to run up””
It has been interesting watching Luxon try to NOT deal with Simian Brown this week – clearly the muppet has struck a nerve with old white racists who do not like seeing words in Te Reo – and there was a brilliant satirical parody of this by Dave Armstrong this week in teh POST.
Slimeo Brown clearly should be disciplined and probably beaten with a stick, for his stupidity and political insensitivity – but not a word from Luxo. Need to step up Mr Luxo !@ and control your attack dogs and their dog whistle !
Mixed Housing Suburban has been the predominant zone in Auckland since 2016 – it’s probably helped, but house prices are significantly above what they were then. Needs to go further if housing affordability without an unprecedented state house building spend is to improve.
An ongoing problem in Auckland is that many people want a blanket ban on new buildings in wide parts of the area within a few kilometres of the city centre.
Normally such a proposition would be patently insane — new buildings are REALLY IMPORTANT in a city, you MUST have them. Everyone involved at every step of this process should be going LOL WTF.
I think the reason they can get away with this is is related to the reason why so many people want Design Quality rules in the rules. That is a noble cause, but how do you want to regulate it? I heard one of the reasons why so many builds in Auckland are so ugly is that the rules mandate two clashing surface types on walls, in some attempt to avoid bland looking buildings.
The reason is that many people expect every single new building to make the street worse, even if it replaces a literal pile of rubble (*). Modern buildings are expected to look bland and soulless. A lot of modern buildings on a street are expected to make it feel like you’re walking through that trench on the Death Star. Architects should think long and hard about why that is. In retrospect, Adolf Loos was wrong about ornamentation.
(*) Just in case you think I am exaggerating, well I am, but only a little bit:
My simple answer to that, Roeland, is that those people are WRONG and I am right. We simply cannot have a blanket ban on new buildings in the centre – in fact, rather more like the opposite – almost all existing 1 storey housing in central Auckland should probably be demolished, and replaced by new developments which are several stories higher. Remuera, especially, should be demolished. Meadowbank too, while we’re at it.
The question of the look and appearance of the Architecture is another whole kettle of Fish however. “Modern buildings are expected to look bland and soulless.” Well no, I disagree, that is not what the designers are aiming to do, but that may well at times be the almost inevitable conclusion, given that we live in the modern era, and not in Edwardian / Victorian times. Cars do not look like a 1925 Bentley any more (with the exception of the Morgan Car Company), but people quite happily drive a Toyota Corolla or a Kia Whatzit. Which are “bland” and “modern”. As is a Tesla. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find anything more bland than a Tesla.
“A lot of modern buildings on a street are expected to make it feel like you’re walking through that trench on the Death Star.” Well, again, No, that is not what is expected – Roeland, sounds like you and I need to have a discussion about the Modern movement in Architecture one day. Certainly some modern buildings on a street are hideous, but I would argue that they were just as bad in the 1990s, and the 1980s, as they were in the 1970s, 1960s and 1950s. There was almost nothing built in the 1940s cos of the war, but the 1930s and the 1920s were also full of buildings that people complained about as well. 1890s houses are quite popular these days, but they are well past their sell-buy date and have zero insulation, single glazed windows, roofs need replacing, and the weatherboards are shot.