Minister Twyford’s Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities Bill (Kāinga Ora) has passed its first reading and is being considered by the Environment Committee. Submissions can be made on it until 11th July.
This new Authority will integrate Housing NZ Corp, its subsidiary HLC (Hobsonville Land Company), plus some functions and assets of KiwiBuild. It will become the country’s public housing landlord and will drive urban development and infrastructure projects all over New Zealand. The Act is due to come into force on 1 Oct 2019.
But in the unseemly rush to get this legislation passed, the Bill is lacking fundamental detail. The extent of the new Authority’s powers is yet to be determined. That important information will follow in a second Bill at some later date.
The Answer to Our Problems
The concept of an urban development authority is in keeping with work started by National’s Nick Smith. The premise behind it is that it will be able to override red-tape bound RMA and councils to get infrastructure and new housing built, while playing an important role in de-risking development and bringing land to market. Hallelujah, but a few clauses in Bill 1 cause immediate unease:
- The Act “binds the Crown”, yet Kāinga Ora will be an independent Authority. How accountable it will be to future governments may be covered by the yet-to-be-developed Government Policy Statement (GPS) explained below. New Zealand already has several dysfunctional organisations spending taxpayers’ funds; they do not appear to be answerable to anyone, therefore cannot be brought back into line when displaying bullying and out-of-control behaviour – so this issue is important.
- In the way of apartheid governments, “Maori” seem to be centre and foremost in everything Kāinga Ora will do, from the make-up of the Board to its projects. Yet the Bill doesn’t actually define who constitutes “Maori” so we must assume it will be the tribal elite who’ll have the say-so and enjoy the advantageous business opportunities to come.
- In keeping with current ideology, Government ministers must appoint culturally-appropriate board members who will have a collective duty:
- To ensure Kāinga Ora has the capability and capacity to uphold the Treaty of Waitangi and its principles, understand and apply Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993 (Maori land tenure legislation) , and be able to engage with Māori and understand Māori perspectives;
- To understand, support, and enable the aspirations of Māori relating to urban development;
- To contribute to the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of current and future (Maori) generations by— identifying and protecting Māori interests in land, and recognising and providing for the relationship of Māori and their culture and traditions with their ancestral lands, water, sites, wāhi tapu, and other taonga; and
- To identify and protect Māori interests, partner and have early and meaningful engagement with Māori, and offer Māori opportunities to participate in urban development.
- Kāinga Ora will not be able to use Housing New Zealand’s exemptions (written into this century’s Treaty settlement legislation) to override tribal Rights of First Refusal (RFR) to freely sell land to any person to give effect to the Crown’s social objectives.
- Land owned by Kāinga Ora’s predecessors won’t be transferred for the time being. This is apparently because further engagement needs to be undertaken with iwi to ensure the Crown’s Treaty settlement obligations are being met both now and in the future.
No other New Zealanders’ hopes, aspirations or rights in our multicultural country are being recognised in this way.
Government Policy Statement (GPS)
The Bill also introduces a policy process which will set out how other agencies will provide support and how Kāinga Ora will meet the Government’s direction and priorities, along with the expectations relating to Māori interests, partnering with Māori, and protections for Māori interests.
The GPS is to be issued within one year of Kainga Ora commencing, will cover a 10-year period and is to be reviewed every 3 years, but can be amended at any time.
The second stage of the legislation is expected to incorporate Ministry recommendations to Cabinet, giving Kāinga Ora power to:
- enter onto private land to undertake preliminary assessments;
- compulsorily purchase land for developments, physical infrastructure and amenities (such as roads, water pipes and parks);
- reconfigure, revoke or exchange reserve land (although ‘sensitive’ Maori land is exempt);
- amalgamate and re-shape land parcels;
- remove legal encumbrances from the land (such as restrictive covenants).
- alter/move existing infrastructure;
- streamline planning and consenting processes, create or amend relevant local by-laws, and override other Government departments, district plans, councils or funding priorities;
- levy a targeted rate to recover the costs of providing infrastructure on (existing and new) property owners within the project area; levy development contributions on developers; capture some of the increase in land value that results from a project; and charge a levy on undeveloped land as an incentive to promote its development.
- vest developed infrastructure in the host territorial authority or other relevant organisation.
With limited information available, Treasury have been unable to determine the impact, cost, outcomes and risks of this legislation. They say it will enable more efficient use of urban land, which would benefit future residents but could adversely impact current residents and property owners, therefore these groupings are the least likely to support the Authority’s range of powers.
Successive governments have created such a bureaucratic and legislative quagmire that a Housing and Urban Development Authority does look to be the solution. Much of this Bill could be good if it can eliminate the obstacles and bottlenecks to deliver cost-effective, well-built, liveable housing near jobs, services and amenities. But the thought of a super-powerful and unfettered, ‘race-based’ Authority rearranging our towns and cities, answerable only to the tribal elite, with yet unspecified and possibly extensive powers, while providing risk-free investments for tribal businesses first and foremost, is most disturbing. Especially as the rest of us appear to have no rights under this legislation, yet when undertaking our own developments, we will still be subjected to the nightmares imposed by the RMA, iwi ‘consultation’ and local body bureaucracies.