Christchurch planners v developers

November 11th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

editorial:

Friction between property developers and local body planners is to be expected.

Developers want to be able to get on with their separate projects, doing what they need with the minimum of bureaucratic oversight.

Planners are concerned not just with the outcome of any individual project but also with its impact on the bigger picture of what is going on in the city.

Planners also want to see that rules, which have been adopted through appropriate processes for good reasons, are properly applied.

The two groups’ aims are not necessarily in conflict – developers want to get stuff done, planners (ideally) want to let it be done (provided the rules are followed). 

The statement that planners want to let things be done is highly contestable!

After the debacle earlier this year of the building consents process, which led to the council losing its status as an accredited consenting authority, it is alarming to hear home builders complaining that red tape and “design palaver” in the council planning process are holding up the construction of apartments and units.

The council has rejected the complaints, saying any delays come from developers failing to come to grips with new, tougher design rules.

But when a developer of the prominence of Mike Greer – owner of the region’s biggest house building company and who presumably runs a sophisticated operation capable of understanding any regulatory requirements – says the council’s bureaucracy is making it nearly impossible to build affordable housing, the complaint must be taken seriously.

As Christchurch has a serious housing shortage, you would think they would be doing what they can to make it easy to build more housing.

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11 Responses to “Christchurch planners v developers”

  1. scrubone (3,097 comments) says:

    Hands up who’s surprised? I see no hands.

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  2. tvb (4,553 comments) says:

    I spent a summer holidays in the town planning department of a local authority. If the application was for a boring structure designed by builder we would try and find every petty thing wrong. But if it was an interesting project of architectural merit we bent as many rules we could to allow the project through.

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  3. scrubone (3,097 comments) says:

    tvb: exactly.

    I recall responding to a post at The Standard. They’d complained that Gerry had “attacked hard working council staff” after working so hard after the earthquakes etc etc. All Gerry was after was for them to *not* do this sort of thing.

    So I put a scenario to them, where someone would be required under the rules to send a registered letter to themselves. The response was along the lines “if take a dislike to the guy I’ll make him follow the rules to the letter”.

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  4. gazzmaniac (2,306 comments) says:

    I think the answer is to get rid of the Christchurch City Council. Not just the councillors, but all the staff. Throw it out and start again.

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  5. flipper (4,328 comments) says:

    The problem is that our town planners are from a single mould – post war, UK Stalinist visionaries.

    The other problem is, that the very fact they are “planning” what Joe and Jill Blow can and cannot do involves a big brother mentality. Abolish the lot!

    AND …. Interesting that builders and manufacturers….post Nick Smith on housing costs…have now forcefully noted that the biggest increases in costs are those that have been imposed by…who? Town Planners and Local Govt.

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  6. Ed Snack (1,937 comments) says:

    Sometimes the targets are too easy:

    “Planners also want to see that rules, which have been adopted through appropriate processes for good reasons, are properly applied.”

    A more mendacious sentence in the context would be hard to imagine.

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  7. Nigel Kearney (1,096 comments) says:

    The planners are probably utter shits, but there will always be people like that in society and they tend to be attracted to these kind of jobs. The real problem is the rules that enable this behaviour, the council who make those rules, and the people who elected the council.

    I didn’t follow the Christchurch election at all. Were there candidates promising to simplify the plan and let people build what they want? How many votes did they get?

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  8. woodburner (30 comments) says:

    One of the issues I observed when working for a TA was that the strategy/planning function and regulatory function tend to operate in polar isolation. The strategy/planning function would go through the motions and cook up these lovely big-picture plans, which the regulatory staff need to enforce. In addition there is a middle man – the town engineers who need to develop the infrastructure to support this lovely plan. The developer who is trying to build a structure is then caught between this nexus of usually getting a 3rd party to interpret the regs on their behalf, while also trying to mind read the engineers plan, and then convince the regulator that the development is consistent.

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  9. RF (1,487 comments) says:

    According to friends in Christchurch the council consent process is crap. In the good old days it took 20 working days to process a building consent. Now its a minimum of 40 days with an average of 55 plus. Some people are waiting in excess of 70 days. So this is progress !!!

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  10. hj (7,154 comments) says:

    Nigel Kearney (547) Says:
    November 11th, 2013 at 10:53 am

    The planners are probably utter shits, but there will always be people like that in society and they tend to be attracted to these kind of jobs.
    …………………..
    What about people motivated by a quick buck?

    City developer aims high Property millionaire, developer and realtor
    Steve Brooks is building homes to sell all over Christchurch. And he’s just turned 20.
    LIZ McDONALD meets the young achiever.
    Steve Brooks: “I always turn back to property”. Steve Brooks may be one of the youngest people in the property game in Christchurch, but he is not without experience.
    After qualifying in real estate at 14, he sold homes at 15, became a landlord at 16, built homes to rent at 17 and was a millionaire at 19. So what’s left to Brooks to achieve in the business?
    He has just turned 20 and having achieved so many goals already, has had to line up more.
    Brooks has formed his own property company. Brooks Homes, and is in the process of developing his first homes to sell.
    “I wanted to become a millionaire by 21,” he says. “But I reached that at 19 and I needed something else to do.
    “I’ve had other businesses but I always turn back to property. I had built some for myself to rent, so I thought why not go out and develop property as a business?
    “Now I don’t know what to do next — I’ll probably have to make it $10 million by 30.”
    In the same way he tackles life, Brooks is not doing the development business by halves. He has four units almost finished in Yaldhurst, “10 or 2″ going in next door, eight planned on two sites in Linwood and Woolston, and several more on the drawing board for neighbourhoods including Woolston and Sockburn.
    “I’m hoping to get about 25 houses out in the next 12 months. “I would love to go out and find a section to build 50 homes. Within three years I would love to pump out 300 homes.”
    Brooks’ first complex is four pensioner units is under construction on Buchanans Road in Yaldhurst, right next to the 28-hectare Masham block where a major subdivision is going in.
    The young developer looks enviously across at the Masham site, saying a subdivision is another item on his to-do-list.
    “I’m looking at doing some larger developments. I would like to deal in bigger ones if I can but the problem is the land is so scarce.
    “With bigger blocks, not competing with small investors but with larger blocks you are competing with other developers. “It’s almost as hard to build two townhouses as it is to build 20, anyway. You still have to organise the plumbing and all the other services.”
    Brooks lists the value of his property assets at $3.2 million — not counting the two houses he bought last week — against which he has debts of $2 million.
    He has built up his portfolio of “15 or 16″ homes with 100 per cent mortgages and believes that even if his property values drop he could sell up and still make money.
    So far Brooks Homes’ projects are all in Christchurch’s cheaper suburbs. The plan, he says, is to save money on land than skimp on the houses. The sites are small, with the homes aimed at the over-65 market. “I want to create a really good product that will sell.”

    I must say I prefer the Singaporean Approach:

    A Nation of Public Housing

    Land Grab In The Suburbs

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  11. hj (7,154 comments) says:

    Earthquake aside, population increase is Government Policy and when we are all squeezed in (not including elites who will live on lifestyle blocks etc) we will be a high earning populous like Haiti.

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