Thursday 29 September 2022

Precious agricultural land

Radio New Zealand provides an apologia for the government's National Policy Statement on High-Value Soils. 

It seems pretty emblematic of broader problems at the public broadcaster. 

It isn't that they're Labour party-partisan, or at least not generally. It's that they're so ideologically uniform, deeply sharing a Labour/Green consensus view of the world, that it often doesn't occur to them that there are contrary views out there. 

No sense of the trade-offs involved. Very minor discussion of that housing matters, but people can build houses elsewhere. The heritage people say the same thing. And the character area people. And the viewshaft people. And when each group's view of the sacred and inviolable gets turned into policy, you can't build anything anywhere.

Here's what Treasury had had to say on the draft National Policy Statement. I'm still waiting on my OIA request for Treasury's work on the current version. 
No account of substantial losses from uncompetitive urban land markets
  • Protecting LUC 1, 2, 3 land would substantially reduce land supply required to enable competitive urban land markets, and bring land prices down to marginal opportunity cost. For an example of the extent of land on which this policy would potentially restrict development, see the first map of Hamilton below, and to a lesser degree the second map. Although the NPS-HPS would not strictly prohibit development, it could severely curtail it by creating substantial transaction costs and uncertainty about planning permission. Absolute economic impacts can result even when policy makers didn’t intend for the policy to be implemented absolutely. Economic investment can be highly sensitive to uncertainty4, especially in relation to planning permission and the mind-sets towards growth and development by regulators.

  • The excessive cost of urban land (perhaps in the order of $600 billion nationally) is a key national challenge, and the NPS-HPL appears likely to exacerbate this, which would undermine the achievement of the central government’s primary objective for the Urban Growth Agenda to “improve housing affordability, underpinned by affordable urban land”. 

Nobody who listened to The Detail on this one would have any inkling about these problems. 

Or that it mainly protects dairy land, or that the value of ag output on an average bit of land equivalent to an urban lot is on the order of $25. You're banning a house to protect $25 worth of produce per year. Even if you double that or triple it to account for streets and parks and stuff, does it make any kind of sense?

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