LGNZ cautious as central government pits potatoes against houses

Published: August 14, 2019

News type: National news   

LGNZ will be cautiously assessing the wider implications of the newly proposed National Position Statement on Highly Productive Land (NPS-HPL), noting that that it traverses a number of highly complex policy areas including housing affordability and property rights.

Released by the Government today, the NPS-HPL is intended to protect agricultural land from development, by requiring councils to consider the productive capacity of land in their planning and consenting decisions.

LGNZ supports the policy intent of this NPS, particularly as it relates to future food security, but notes it has the potential to conflict with the Government’s urban growth agenda, which is encouraging fast growing councils to expand house building to tackle New Zealand’s housing affordability crisis. Central Government is expected to release its proposed National Policy Statement on Urban Development next week.

“We need to carefully assess and balance the trade-offs between protecting highly productive land and enabling cities to grow, because at first glance these two policy frameworks appear to work against each other,” said LGNZ president Dave Cull.

“In places like Auckland and Hamilton, where New Zealand’s housing affordability crisis is most severe, the only place these cities can meaningfully expand greenfield development is in the areas that the NPS is looking to protect.”

“The Government is effectively pitting potatoes against houses, and at first blush we don’t think the discussion document has considered the implications of this sufficiently.”

LGNZ is also calling for clarity on the Government’s forestry policy, as tree planting also has the potential to lock up highly productive land for many decades.

A further concern is the implications that the NPS-HPL could have for property rights and regulatory takings.

“New Zealand is a democracy built upon property rights, which are one of the key pillars that underpin our open economy,” continued Cull.

“The detail that we’ll want to see is how central government compensates landowners for the loss of their property rights through an instrument such an NPS, or at least lays out a check and balance to ensure natural justice is served.”

“If there is no compensation for these regulatory takings, it could have severe implications for investment confidence around cities.”

“This is a highly complex area and any misstep could have long-lasting implications for ordinary New Zealanders for decades to come, which is why we’re urging the Government to proceed with extreme caution.”

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