At least, that seems to be the view of the vast majority of people commenting on the Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Bill, (RMEHSOM), which is being rammed through Parliament with indecent haste. Haste so hasty in fact that the Environment Select Committee was sitting on Saturday, which also happened to be the most glorious hot Saturday of the summer so far. Most people and organisations said a version of the following:

  • It’s too fast (3 weeks consultation only)
  • It’s too broad (blanket rules will not work for everywhere)
  • It’s going to result in shit buildings and shit environments (everywhere)
  • There’s no room for trees and not enough room for outdoor spaces.
  • Extending the MDRS rules from the current planned intensification corridors, to basically everywhere in the entire Tier 1 cities, is a step towards disaster.
  • It tramples on the carefully worked out rules of existing Councils, that took 3 years to hammer out in the case of Auckland, and that Wellington is in the middle of.

But not everyone agrees with that. In fact, TALK Wellington says almost the opposite. They say:

“I support more people being able to live close to things we all need, in places that are more socially, economically and environmentally good. To improve the Bill I suggest the following:” 

  • Amend MDRS to remove front and side setbacks. Suggestion: 0m of front yard boundary0m of side yard boundary1m of the rear boundary
  • Raise / remove the 3 dwelling cap
  • Allow for communal outdoor space. Suggestion: One per unit of at least: 15m2 for houses at ground floor, with a minimum dimension of 3m and 8m2 for houses with no ground floor, with a minimum dimension of 1.8m  OR  one per every 5 units of at least 10m2 of communal outdoor space, with a minimum dimension of 6m.
  • Immediately extend MDRS to Tier 2 urban environments
  • Limit use of character as a qualifying matter
  • Remove changes to Policy 3(d) of NPS-UD
  • Provide incentives for accessibility, universal design, hydrological neutrality, low emissions construction, and biodiversity enhancement
  • Create exemptions from planning rules, for iwi. (Talk Wellington, 2021, submission on their website).

I’m deeply concerned, when Talk Wellington, a friendly, urbanist website run by eco-friendly, left-leaning, bicycle-using, intelligent people, are in agreement with Don Brash, who is renown for having expoused views so right-wing and racist that even the National Party had to walk away from him. Something very strange is going on! Don’s view is noted here:

“But now in a ray of hope, this Bill goes directly to the core of the problem – the crushing effect of discretionary social control over changes in your neighbour’s land uses initiatives. This Bill carves out of the stifling web of planner/lawyer control a limited restoration of the “right to build” that was the essential strength of the property rights we inherited, embodied in Article 2 of the Treaty. It was simple – that the lord in his manor and the peasant in his hovel were equally entitled to enjoy their property to the exclusion of others. No prince or priest could tell them what they could, and could not, do on their own land.” (Dr Don Brash, 2021, submission to the Bill).

Notwithstanding the archaic and elitist language that is so essentially part of Don Brash’s world view (does Article 2 of the Treaty really say lord in his manor and peasant in his hovel?), he is saying the same thing as “remove the 3 dwelling cap” and “Amend MDRS to remove front and side setbacks” that Talk Wellington is saying above.

By contrast, and with varying degrees of politeness, the huge majority of respondents were saying things like:

The lack of engagement with local government and residents of Tier 1 cities to date is incredibly disappointing. The Bill, as proposed, will have significant impacts on councils’ place-making, land-use and infrastructure planning work, as well as on our local communities and neighbourhoods. A collaborative partnership between local and central government would bring better housing outcomes than a blunt, one-size-fits-all legislative approach.

Insofar as this Bill is concerned, if we do not take a stand against those that wish to override the will of the people, it will be the death knell for local government. The stakes could not be higher and our democracy is under assault.It is widely accepted that New Zealand has a housing accommodation problem. However, a “one-size-fits-all” solution is not the answer for New Zealand’s Tier 1 cities. In all likelihood, it will create more long-term problems than it is purported to solve, in the short term.” (David Lynch, Momentous Public Relations, 2021, submission to the Bill).

Well actually, that “death knell for local government” bit was only said by David Lynch (presumably not THAT David Lynch of Twin Peaks fame, but another one), but I got the impression that many other people would agree with that if they had thought of it in time. Well, nearly everyone. Someone a lot gentler than David, called Briarlee says: “Native Sanctuaries are better. Can we focus on independant living than these 3bed connected homes. Haybail and hempcrete techniques can get the job done faster. My Marae- is a holistic housing company I’d like the govt to adopt for our people. Features a marae with shared facilities and independant units for occupants in a live in re introduced native habitat. With a farm for food this marae can be used to repopulate native species.” (Briarlee Tutauha, 2021, entire submission to the Bill).

Last word for now to go to the wonderful national treasure Ben Schrader:

  • “Stop the city-wide approach to intensification and refocus efforts on areas beside transport corridors and suburban centres where its more possible to provide the infrastructure material and immaterial to make medium density housing work as well as it should. This includes local provision of public and green spaces for the residents that live in the dwellings.
  • Ensure that intensification projects meet high design standards. Make sure new dwellings have access to sun and are not in permanent shade. This is important for both mental and physical health.
  • Acknowledge that a blanket approach to intensification is flawed and regulations need to take account of local conditions.
  • Re-establish citizens rights to appeal to the Environment Court (or another review body) developments that could seriously affect the liveability of their homes or destroy local cultural heritage. It is unacceptably undemocratic for this existing right to be stripped away.” (Ben Schrader, 2021, submission to the Bill).

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