It now appears “all but confirmed" that the smug git and introducer of the RMA, Simon Upton, will be returning from his 18-year sinecure in Paris hosting OECD banquets to take up a sinecure here as Parliamentary Commissioner of the Environment.
This is in the same week that the Productivity Commission points out that "Aucklands housing and infrastructure issues illustrate the central failures of t[he] urban planning system” that Upton introduced and, as Environment Minister, tended unchanged for nine years.
The Commission puts it bluntly, suggesting problems faced in Auckland are like a cancer that has spread to other parts of the country:
“The example of Auckland illustrates some central failures of the current system.”
It sure as hell does.
“Auckland, home to a third of New Zealands people, has been and is still experiencing extremely fast population growth. Aucklanders, armed with the system’s planning tools, have struggled to respond to this pressure either by providing greater density in central parts or by expanding outwards at the city’s boundaries,” it says.
“While some specific interests have benefited, the resulting scarcity has driven a protracted land and house price spiral that has been socially and economically harmful. It has now adversely affected many parts of New Zealand and many New Zealanders.”
Restrictive land-use regulation including policies preventing intensification of historic suburbs surrounding the city centre, poor transport links, and, most of all, funding constraints, have all played a part…
The burden of a significant deterioration in housing affordability over the past 25 years has fallen most heavily on low-income households which are much more likely to be spending more than 30% of their income on housing than high-income households. “On this important criterion, New Zealand cities, particularly Auckland, have not performed well,” the Commission says.
“[A]s the Reserve Bank [has] noted, the underlying driver of higher prices is restrictive land-use regulation that prevents housing supply from responding efficiently to demand.”
Upton headed off to Paris 18 years ago saying he regretted nothing, that nothing “gnawed at his soul” - and this included his oversight (as Minister of Health) of the contaminated blood disaster that may have killed around 20 souls. So we have to wonder whether he even has one.
But he should be asked that question again with the current disaster in mind.