Mark Thomas - New Mayor for Auckland

Making Growth Contributions That Count

The NZ Herald’s “World Class” Auckland series is halfway through. They use typically 3 pages of the paper to cover ‘the big’ Auckland issues: how we currently rank, what random experts and real people think about it, and, briefly, what more we need to do.

It’s great they are doing this, but the results have been a bit mixed (the half a page on Recreation in the Saturday Herald was scarcely an after thought).

Day one of the ten day spread covered housing: specifically how to make housing cheaper. The ‘What We Need To Do’ section pleased (or irritated) everyone by stating we needed to both ditch the urban boundary AND allow more urban sprawl. As I outline in Growth, we do need to make more land available, and have much more effective conversations with urban and suburbanites about where we can intensify further.

But a more interesting suggestion from the Herald was about how to fund growth and pay for development contributions.

DCs (or financial contributions under the Resource Management Act) are a vexed issue. It’s the name for the cost charged by council passed on to developers passed on to homeowners for the core roading, waster and stormwater and other infrastructure that new developments need. Auckland Council has a 31 page policy on the issue – which will give you some sense of the complexity.

It’s a controversial policy not least because the costs of a 30, 40 or 50 year asset are paid upfront. Ultimately by the homeowner.

The Herald’s story talked about the approach in Houston Texas where the council issues bonds to investors which cover these costs and then levies a charge on residents who buy the homes – spread over the life of the asset.

Len Brown has repeatedly talked about new/alternative funding options to boost Auckland’s progress over the nearly 5 years he has been Mayor. There’s been no significant progress.

He’s led no significant conversation on this topic and yet if we want our contributions to count for more (and to cost us less upfront), we need a mayoral candidate to start talking about this.

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