New Zealand: Productivity Commission raises sights in final land use report

Brief Counsel

The Productivity Commission, emboldened by recent signals from the government that it has significant reform in mind, has abandoned a key recommendation in its draft report on Using land for housing to instead recommend "a deeper and more substantive review of the planning framework".

We summarise the Commission's key recommendations.

Scope of reform

The inquiry Terms of Reference stated that a fundamental review of the Resource Management Act (RMA) was out of scope. So the Commission proposed an "alternative legislative pathway" which would combine elements of the RMA, the Local Government Act (LGA) and the Land Transport Management Act (LTMA) and would be available as a voluntary option to assist councils in high growth areas to accommodate housing demand.

However, this was always a make-do proposal. The Commission has now set its sights higher and is advocating a much wider ranging review across all three Acts. Recent hints by Finance Minister Bill English, reported in our September issue of Ground Cover, indicate that the Commission may get its wish.

The developments which the Commission says led it to "reconsider" its earlier recommendation are:

  • recent announcements that the next phase of RMA reforms will include provision for standardised templates in RMA plans, removal of the need to obtain a resource consent for "minor activities" and measures to streamline the plan-making process, and
  • the planned National Policy Statement (NPS) on urban development. The Commission recommends that the NPS should introduce a common terminology for residential land – zoned, zoned and serviced, zoned, serviced and consented.

Features of a possible new framework

The Commission has identified a number of features which would be "desirable" in a new framework. These include:

  • greater legislative weight for spatial plans aligned with requirements that they be tightly-specified, evidence-based and include clear growth and housing demand paths
  • a greater role for central government in longer-term infrastructure and urban planning, including the development of common datasets and closer monitoring of performance
  • more use of land price signals in making planning decisions over factors such as overall land supply, the allocation of different land uses within a city and the need to review planning policies
  • stronger controls on the quality of land use regulations, informed by an evaluation of the Auckland and Christchurch Independent Hearing Panels, and
  • room for more responsive rezoning so that planning controls can adjust quickly to specified triggers (e.g. the installation of key infrastructure, population densities passing a certain threshold or evidence of scarcity-based price pressures).

One idea is that councils must release further land when the price discontinuity between land which is available for residential development and land which is off-limits reach a certain cap. The Commission suggests this would "assist" councils to confront the trade-offs inherent in the compact urban form model and would promote the release of land currently being held in expectation of future price increases.

The Commission considers that central government's relative absence from the planning system (compared to most other countries) gives rise to a number of weaknesses, in particular:

  • a failure by local authorities to consider the national implications of their land use decisions
  • attempts to address issues at the local level which are better addressed nationally – e.g. greenhouse gas emissions
  • inconsistent standards and planning definitions among councils, and
  • lack of any countervailing force against the influence of NIMBY-ism.

Key recommendations

Most of the other final recommendations were foreshadowed in the draft report, Chapman Tripp's commentary on which is available here.

They include:

  • basing rates on land values rather than capital values because of the stronger incentives this would create for land to flow to its highest use and against land banking
  • removing central government's exemption from rates, including on land used for health and education purposes, and making all council-owned land rateable
  • requiring that councils which implement urban limits have mechanisms in place to enable prompt review in response to market developments
  • requiring councils to remove balcony requirements for apartments and minimum parking provisions, to lift current building height limits where it cannot be proved that the benefits outweigh the costs and to undertake robust cost-benefit analyses before introducing a height limit
  • requiring councils to review existing heritage and special character protection policies and to restrict them to specific structures or items of high, genuine and significant historical or cultural value
  • requiring councils in high-growth cities to review any explicit limits they may have on housing density with a view to removing them
  • reducing the proportion of landowners required to agree covenant changes from all to a super-majority, and introducing a statutory sunset period on restrictive covenants of 25 to 30 years
  • supporting local urban development authorities to de-risk development and lead urban regeneration, with the support of central government
  • supporting a further legislative regime, similar to the Special Housing Area legislation, to bring forward housing development
  • recommending that urban development authorities be given specific compulsory acquisition powers for housing and urban regeneration projects, and
  • making available and incentivising the use of alternative funding sources such as user pays charging (e.g. volumetric water charges, road tolls and congestion charges).

Next steps

The government is now considering the report. It has not given a timeline for its response, saying only that it will come back "in coming months". This would seem to indicate next year rather than this year, although this is an area in which Ministers are keen to make progress.

The information in this article is for informative purposes only and should not be relied on as legal advice. Please contact Chapman Tripp for advice tailored to your situation.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions