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New war on NIMBYs

New Zealand’s urban areas could look very different in the coming years if a sweeping townhouse bill passes into law.

The Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Bill which seeks to rapidly accelerate the supply of housing in urban areas has been passed into law.

From August 2022, councils will be forced to allow townhouses of up to three storeys with up to three dwellings on almost all residential sites in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Tauranga and Hamilton, as these will not require resource consent.

The Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment 2021 amends the RMA 1991 to require “tier 1” councils to set more permissive land use regulations to enable greater housing intensification.

This law aims to alter the core presumption of planning rules so that the default option for councils is to allow new houses to be developed, rather than to disallow it. The law change is a part of the strategy to stop so-called NIMBYs from stopping new houses from being built. NIMBY stands for “Not In My Backyard”. It is a pejorative term for those who disapprove of any development in their neighbourhood that they think may have a negative impact on them.

Currently, a developer has to apply for resource consent to develop a three storey house or to build three townhouses in most zones under most district plans. Councils can decline the resource consent for various reasons. Part of the process is to seek written ‘affected party approval’ from neighbours who might be affected by the development. So, effectively neighbours have a say as to how a developer is allowed to build. Even if affected party approval is given, the council can still ask for the consent to be “notified” if it believes the development will affect a wider community.

If there are submissions against the development that can result in a public hearing before an independent hearing panel that makes a final decision. The decision can be appealed to the Environment Court and then the High Court if either side disagrees.

The Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment 2021 would –

  1. introduce a streamlined process to enable tier 1 councils to implement the National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD) more quickly.
  2. also apply medium density residential standards (MDRS) in all tier 1 urban environments. They would enable medium density housing (up to three dwellings of up to three storeys per site) to be built as of right across more of New Zealand’s urban environments.

The government hopes that the new rules will result in at least 48,200 and as many as 105,500 new homes being built in the next 5-8 years throughout New Zealand. (see – https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/red-tape-cut-boost-housing-supply, 19 October 2021).

However, there appears to be no clear direction as to who is responsible for the infrastructure required to support this accelerated supply of housing in urban areas. The argument presented before the Select Committee was that the bill would not change the total number of people living in cities, so essentially would not change infrastructure costs. Presumably, that would be something that we have to wait and see.

This article is current as at the date of publication and is only intended to provide general comments about the law. Harkness Henry accepts no responsibility for reliance by any person or organisation on the content of the article. Please contact the author of the article if you require specific advice about how the law applies to you.

For further information

Dr. Joan Forret - Harkness Henry Partner

Dr. Joan Forret

Charlotte Muggeridge - Harkness Henry Associate

Charlotte Muggeridge

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