Q1: How do you intend to tackle the housing affordability problem? In your opinion, what is the biggest factor affecting this problem?
The key to improving affordability is increasing supply. Our latest figures show the median Auckland house price of $850,500, with prices in Auckland being flat for 10 months now.
Our biggest housing challenges have been in Auckland, and the Government has always said council rules which have blocked new housing development are at the core of that city’s housing problems.
The new Auckland Unitary Plan allows for 400,000 new properties — about double what the previous plan allowed. The Government introduced its Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Act 2013 (HASHAA) to ensure developments could be consented under the new plan’s rules while it was still being finalised.
These developments, known as Special Housing Areas (SHAs), had a potential yield of 66,000 dwellings.
We’ve rolled out the HASHAA legislation to other areas experiencing rapid growth and, nationwide, 235 SHAs with a total capacity for 73,000 homes have been created.
Total new build consents nationwide have more than doubled from 15,000 to 30,000 a year since the HASHAA was passed, and we’re experiencing the longest and strongest growth in building on record.
Q2: High levels of immigration have been blamed for the chronic housing shortage. Will your party’s policies allow the current levels of immigration to continue?
National believes the current level of immigration is about right to meet the needs of New Zealand’s growing economy.
Migrants make a valuable contribution to the economy and help fill genuine labour shortages when there aren’t enough Kiwis available to do the work.
This is particularly important in the construction industry where we need migrants to help fill the skill shortage that exists so that we can build more houses.
Arbitrarily cutting immigration, as some opposition parties are suggesting, would severely restrict the construction industry’s ability to meet demand.
We know that the single largest contribution to the increase in net migration has been the decision 150,000 New Zealanders have made not to leave in the past five years.
A large proportion of net migration is also made up of working holidaymakers and international students, neither of which are coming here and buying houses in Auckland.
Q3: How do you intend to solve the skills shortage currently affecting the construction industry?
We have sufficient funding to take on anyone willing to take up an apprenticeship. The Government is committed and willing to put the resources in, but we also need support from parents, teachers, career advisors and businesses if we are to change the perception of trades.
Over the past year we have funded 7500 new apprentices. We now have 43,045 apprentices in training, and are targeting 50,000 by 2020. Construction apprentice numbers are up 48% since 2011, from just over 11,000 to 16,300 in 2016.
The numbers of apprentices are rapidly rising. The Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO) has just celebrated reaching 11,000 apprentices in training for the first time.
To assist Industry Training Organisations (ITOs) with raising apprenticeship enrolments, the Tertiary Education Commission’s action plan includes:
• Working with other central government agencies, industry associations and key stakeholders to build employer demand.
• Developing opportunities to recognise employers that have apprentices.
• Better understanding the barriers to employing apprentices.
• Helping employers understand the benefits of employing young people to increase the number of young people as apprentices.
• Promoting apprenticeships through our Careers function.
• Supporting greater exposure to vocational options for young people.
• Better bridging between school and work through secondary/tertiary programmes.
• Encouraging more women into apprenticeships.
• Encouraging ITOs to improve retention through raising employer capability and providing peer support for apprentices.
Q4: Many in the industry believe red tape and unnecessary bureaucracy at territorial authority level is stifling the industry and subjecting home owners to soaring costs. Do you agree and, if so, what will you do regarding long-standing issues such as over-regulation, reducing compliance costs and unacceptable consent time frames?
In April, the Government passed reforms to the Resource Management Act, significant provisions of which include:
• National planning standards to reduce complexity and cost.
• Streamlined planning process to improve responsiveness.
• Discretion for councils to exempt an activity from consents.
• Strengthening of requirements to manage natural hazard risks.
• New 10-day consent category for minor activities.
• New requirements for council to free up land for housing.
National recently announced it would introduce new fit-for-purpose urban planning laws separate from the Resource Management Act to encourage more responsive planning, faster development, and better protection for the environment in our growing cities.
Q5: Do you think the Licensed Builder Practitioner (LBP) scheme is working well? What would you do to improve it?
The LBP scheme has been running for nearly 10 years and there are currently 25,267 LBPs. Seven prosecutions have been undertaken, with four before the courts.
The Building Practitioners Board has received 677 complaints against licensed individuals and, of these complaints, 242 have resulted in a disciplinary penalty.
Q6: What will your approach be with regard to collaboration with the industry and industry associations such as the Registered Master Builders Association, and what ideas and policies will your party promote to provide the sector with greater certainty and to help avoid the boom and bust cycles that have historically plagued the industry?
The MBIE consults the industry on a range of issues and collaborates yearly with BRANZ and Pacifecon on their independent National Construction Pipeline Report.
This provides a pipeline of forward construction work and, this year, showed residential, commercial and infrastructure building activity is forecast to continue to boom for the next three years to a record $42 billion in 2020.
The principle answer to New Zealand’s housing challenges is to build more, and this report shows National’s approach is on the right track, with record numbers of new homes in the pipeline.
The report projects 196,500 homes will be built over the next six years, the largest ever in New Zealand history, with 100,000 over the next three years.
• The Labour Party had failed to respond at time of going to press.