Judith Collins has challenged the Government to pass an emergency law change to allow more houses to be built, in her first speech of the year.
Collins said she had written to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern offering bipartisan support for a bill to be drafted as soon as March that would allow for new houses to be consented rapidly.
This policy is very similar to one that National campaigned on at the last election.
Her State of the Nation speech came as skyrocketing house prices and steadily rising rents have caused a political headache for the Labour-led Government, which was elected in 2017 promising to rein in house price inflation.
Collins said the situation was “spiralling out of control” and emergency powers were needed while the Government worked on its reforms to the Resource Management Act (RMA), which aren’t expected to be enacted until at least 2022.
“I am calling on the Government to introduce urgent temporary legislation to make it easier to build a house, until the permanent RMA reforms are completed,” Collins said.
“The legislation would give Government powers to rezone land and avoid frustrating consenting delays. It was done by National following the Canterbury earthquakes. It’s now urgent for the rest of the country.”
The policy would see much of the power over housing consenting wrested from councils and given to central Government. The Government would be able to rezone council land to allow for more housing – both through greenfield developments and intensification.
It would also suspend the requirement for infrastructure to be built prior to zoning and suspend the appeals process so district plans could be completed “as soon as possible”.
Similar legislation was enacted for Canterbury by the last National Government after the 2011 earthquake, and has led to a much more stable housing market.
The Government have introduced a National Policy Statement on Urban Development which requires councils to allow intensification, but this will not go into full effect until August 2022.
“New Zealanders have had enough. It’s time for the two major political parties to work together to fix this problem,” Collins said.
Collins said a special select committee should be set up to draft the legislation with a view to introducing it by the end of March. She said Labour’s policies on housing thus far were not enough.
“Last week Labour merely announced where they will put more state houses. Their KiwiBuild failure has been matched by a belief that New Zealanders aspire to be on shorter waiting lists. It offers no help to the Kiwi families who want to own their own home,” Collins said.
The Government announced the full roll out plan for 8000 previously announced public houses last week, and a timeline for when other housing policies would be announced.
Collins laid out her wider vision for the National Party in the State of the Nation speech in Auckland’s Rotary Club.
She urged the Government to work faster on the Covid-19 vaccine roll out and do more to support businesses – criticising law changes that have raised the minimum wage, increased sick leave, and changed collective bargaining.
“Labour’s intentions are laudable but they are focused on alleviating the symptoms of stretched working families struggling to make ends meet rather than on the root causes of prosperity – supporting businesses to be more productive, investing in new capital, taking on new staff and lifting wages,” Collins said.
She said the tough economic outlook meant the Reserve Bank was being relied on to keep the pump primed with low interest rates, which in turn drove up house prices.
“The Government’s insistence on policies that stifle business growth means the Reserve Bank has to do more of the heavy lifting to prop up the economy through interest rates being lower than they otherwise need to be.
“National will be kind, but not at the expense of getting things done.”
House prices have risen rapidly in New Zealand across successive Governments.
National has generally campaigned against demand-side measures such as increased taxation of property wealth. After campaigning several times for a Capital Gains Tax, Labour has abandoned the policy.