19 Dec 2023

With the recent change in government, we now have a clearer sense of New Zealand's direction for the next three years.

In their coalition agreements, National, Act, and NZ First have outlined the policies slated for implementation in the medium to long term, and they’ve also unveiled a '100 Day Action Plan,' offering a snapshot of upcoming developments in the coming months.

As part of the ‘100 Day Action Plan’, the changes specifically relevant to the land development sector are:
• Beginning work on National’s ‘Going for Housing Growth’ policy, to expand housing supply, build infrastructure and give councils flexibility over MDRS standards.
• Repealing Labour’s Three Waters legislation.
• Repeal Labour’s Natural and Built Environment Act 2023 and Spatial Planning Act 2023.
• Introduce a fast-track consenting regime for regional and national projects of significance.

Our industry is unlikely to experience significant changes in the next 100 days. Many proposed actions are poised to uphold the current status quo. While the government will initiate work on the 'Going for Housing Growth' policy, substantial changes can’t be reasonably expected within 100 days.

The repeal of the Natural and Built Environment Act 2023 and the Spatial Planning Act 2023 implies a retention of the RMA for the time being. Similarly, the repeal of the Three Waters legislation signals a return to the status quo, with the management of Three Waters remaining in the hands of local councils.

The upcoming fast-track consenting regime draws inspiration from the Covid-19 process that was temporarily implemented by central government. This streamlined approach aims to expedite the consenting process, with a specific focus on efficiently advancing key infrastructure projects, including those related to public transport, roads, rail, and water infrastructure.

As the new government finds its feet, they will make a start on implementing their long list of policies. A snapshot of the policies relevant to our industry are as follows:
• Amend the RMA to simplify the planning process, increase efficiencies, allow farmers to farm, get more houses built, enable aquaculture and other primary industries.
• Review and replace the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 within their three-year term.
• Replace the RMA with new resource management laws premised on the enjoyment of property rights as a guiding principle.
• Councils in major towns and cities will be required to zone land for 30 years’ worth of housing demand immediately.
• Reforming the Infrastructure Funding and Financing Act to reduce red tape and introduce new financing tools to fund infrastructure for housing.
• A $1billion fund to provide incentives for councils that deliver more new housing.
• Boosting and reprioritising the roads of national significance programme to focus on economic growth, congestion and unlocking urban housing growth.
• The introduction of a National Infrastructure Agency to coordinate government funding, connect domestic and offshore investors with New Zealand infrastructure, and improve funding, procurement, and delivery.
• Innovative funding and financing tools to boost investment in infrastructure, and create investment opportunities for ACC, the NZ Super Fund and KiwiSaver funds.
• National, city and regional deals to partner with local government to create long-term pipelines of regional projects.
• A 30-year infrastructure pipeline to deliver long-term certainty, enable more effective planning, and reduce project costs.
• Streamlining the building consenting process to increase construction efficiencies.

The government has outlined clear policies to increase housing supply, advance key infrastructure projects, and make amendments to eventually replace the RMA. Increasing housing supply is likely to involve the re-zoning of land in district plans across the country. However, it's important to note that these plan changes take time, so we don't expect immediate shifts in this area.

Several housing projects have faced delays due to infrastructure constraints. The current government is actively focused on overcoming these hurdles by promoting major infrastructure projects. This involves exploring options such as increasing central government spending and investigating alternative funding solutions to accelerate progress in this area.

The implementation of these policies has the potential to advance various infrastructure funding strategies, providing a significant boost to housing supply. Anticipated amendments to the RMA are likely to unfold over the next few years, but a complete replacement of the RMA isn't on the horizon before the conclusion of the current term in office. As evidenced by the Built Environment Act 2023 and Spatial Planning Act 2023, the process of replacing the RMA is time-consuming, particularly when new governments initiate a fresh start.

Overall, it is business as usual for now, but CKL will continue to keep a close eye on any developments and will continue to inform our clients of anything relevant to them.

Government Policy Updates: A Closer Look at the Implications for Planning