ACT backs development as housing solution

03:57, Feb 23 2013

The ACT party has waded in with its own solution to the housing affordability crisis - giving property owners back the freedom to develop their own land.

Leader and sole MP John Banks says the Resource Management Act is biased against development, and his party would reform the law to create a presumption in favour of private property rights.

He would cut red-tape so that landowners would be much freer to sub-divide their land, as long as they respect the rights of their neighbours.

That would increase the supply of land that can be built on, he told the ACT party conference in Auckland today.

"The result would be that young people would be free to achieve home ownership if they are prepared to work hard and save hard," he said.

Affordable housing has dominated political debate since Labour proposed building 100,000 affordable homes over 10 years under its Kiwibuild policy.

The National-led government is reforming the RMA and streamlining the consent process. But Banks said "we need to go much further."

"We need to reverse the anti-development and anti-subdivision presumptions of the RMA in favour of the freedom to build one's own property."

Under ACTs plans, land owners who have their property rights "taken or infringed" could seek compensation. It would also ensure obtaining resource consents do not cost more than the value added to their property.

The conference is the party's second since a devastating election result that saw just one MP - Banks - returned to Parliament.

Banks said he wants to return in 2014 "in larger numbers."  A return to power for National in 2014 will "depend" on ACT, he said.

Making a success of the party's flagship charter schools policy is key to reviving the party's fortunes at the next election, he said.

Earlier, rich-lister Alan Gibbs kicked off  the conference, revealing he used to be "a communist."

The amphibious vehicle inventor is hosting around 190 delegates at his 1000 acre farm and sculpture park, north of Auckland. He has donated more than $100,000 to the party since helping to found it in 1996.

Guests were treated to glimpses of bison, yaks and giraffes, and his valuable collection of contemporary art sculptures, as they made their way to the conference venue: a barn. An emu milled around outside as delegates took their seats.

Former leaders Don Brash and Rodney Hide were in attendance. Shamed MP David Garrett, who quit after confessing to stealing the identity of a dead baby to obtain a passport, was also among the audience.

Gibbs, said to be worth $450 million, told the conference he was inclined towards communism as a student, but has been "totally cured of socialism" after travelling to countries like North Korea and Cuba.

He also spoke of raising the retirement age and New Zealand's dwindling economic fortunes, relative to Singapore.

Also among other speakers today was Catherine Isaac, who is driving the establishment of charter schools. The first are expected to open in 2014.

Hide told the conference that ACT are "a small group of people who will always be there."

He said the media believes the party "must hate the poor, hate Maori and hate the unions." And Parliament was difficult because "you don't set the agenda, you must respond."

But he stressed it was important for the "political discourse in this country" that ACT remains in Parliament.

And he said with just one MP this term, the party has achieved its "greatest achievement" - charter schools.