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NPS on productive land - a balanced approach is needed

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Paul Evans, Chief Executive of the Association of Consulting Engineers (ACENZ), is advocating a balanced approach to the development of productive land.

This follows the release of the Government’s National Policy Statement for Highly Productive Land. Paul Evans says "There have been calls to let the market decide what we value more - potatoes or housing. However, it’s not that simple."

"Our taxation system treats investment in horticulture and housing very differently. Investment in horticulture attracts a higher rate of taxation than investment in housing, which means housing is often seen as a more attractive investment proposition, with lower risk.

"We also don’t factor in the marginal costs of these developments, including increased congestion. These new subdivisions are often a long way from employment and have poor public transport services. We are, in effect, locking people into private car usage, which has significant impacts on issues as diverse as health and climate change."

"A further consideration is that the development of infrastructure for greenfield sites is often incredibly expensive. In many instances, it is far more affordable to take an enabling approach to intensifying development in existing urban areas. While this also has its challenges, it’s far less likely to occur if we allow unlimited urban sprawl.

"I acknowledge that there are housing challenges in areas like Auckland. However, that doesn’t mean we should remove all constraints on the development of housing on productive land. Auckland Council’s Unitary Plan provides zoning for up to two million additional dwellings. That’s roughly 40 times our current shortfall. So, even in Auckland, despite what people often say the housing shortage isn’t due to a land supply issue. It’s an infrastructure provision issue," Paul Evans says.

"We must also remember that this isn’t merely about building houses. We need to build communities, with quality living conditions, excellent amenities, and high-quality public transport. Ignoring ‘quality of life’ factors may allow the delivery of marginally cheaper houses, but will lock residents into car ownership, which comes at a high cost.

"It should be noted that the NPS is not designed to provide complete protection of highly productive land. It’s merely saying that councils must consider the highly productive land resources in their area to ensure availability for primary production now and for future generations.

"I believe the government’s approach to the protection of productive land is a reasonable middle ground. Balancing the provision of housing with valuing the economic, employment and food security benefits of domestic horticulture."

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