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?