Friday 23 January 2015

RMA changes and council incentives

Me in The Initiative's weekly newsletter:
If councils are determined to commit absurdities, they’re going to do it regardless of fixes to the RMA. After whatever legislative tweaks are enacted, and new Environment Court rulings come through, it will take councils a little while to figure out how to restart the micromanagement that pushes up costs and helps make New Zealand the seventh least affordable place to live in the world.

Councils don’t care about the effects of their planning rules on the macroeconomy, what it does to Reserve Bank policy, or whether it utterly ruins the economy. For them, that’s all under a great big Somebody Else’s Problem shield of invisibility. Councils’ problem is making sure that councillors get re-elected. That means not hiking property taxes too much (and so loading costs onto new developments) and making sure that the short term interests of current voters, and of the loudest voters, are prioritised over the interests of those who might be in town after the next election, if development were allowed. Dumb rules that hike costs could be the desired outcome, not an unintended consequence.

This basic calculus will not change much until councils’ incentives are fixed.
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