Why does NZ need an Urban Development Authority?

by Contributor07 Sep 2018

NZ will soon have an Urban Development Authority (UDA), under the government’s plans to tackle the housing deficit.

The focus is on Auckland, which needs 15,000 new houses a year to keep up with population growth. Building consents are at a new high of 13,000 for the year, but a shortfall remains. The UDA is designed to address this shortfall.

What is a UDA?

A UDA will require a range of tools in order to be an effective “one-stop-shop” for land development. Any UDA is likely to be given powers to:

  • Assemble parcels of land, including through compulsory acquisition under the Public Works Act;
  • Override the Auckland Unitary Plan;
  • Plan and build infrastructure such as roads, water infrastructure and reserves;
  • Buy, sell and lease land and buildings;
  • Borrow to fund infrastructure; and
  • Levy charges to cover infrastructure costs.

New legislation will be required to establish a UDA. The new UDA will need to work collaboratively with the council to ensure successful delivery of the vision under the Auckland Plan.

What difference will a UDA make?

The media has criticised creation of a UDA, suggesting it will be no more effective than the Special Housing Areas (SHAs) created by the previous national government. However, there are some key differences:

  • SHAs relied on property developers to find and assemble the land, design and fund the development, and construct the houses. The Housing Accord and Special Housing Areas Act 2013 created a quick and more certain path to obtaining resource consents, but did not help with the construction of the houses themselves or the infrastructure needed to support them. A UDA will provide a more comprehensive solution to the creation and construction of developments.
  • SHAs were located in places chosen by (or available to) property developers. In contrast, a UDA could acquire land to create developments in locations close to transport nodes, or where there is existing infrastructure capacity.
  • Decisions about when to construct SHAs were in the hands of property developers. Councils are often criticised for not processing enough building consents, but they can only process the applications they receive. By comparison, the blame will fall squarely on the government if the UDA does not deliver housing quickly.

Look out for a UDA bill later this year or early in 2019. We expect the new UDA to initially focus on Auckland, but its mandate could be expanded to include other fast growing locations, such as Queenstown.

This article was authored by Nicky McIndoe, a partner in Kensington Swan’s national environment and planning team.