No Minister

ACT seems to have lost its way.

with 21 comments

I was an ACT voter for over 20 years. I had been comforted, despite the fact I might not have agreed with all of their policies in detail, in the belief they were “classic liberals”. Pro market, pro free choice, pro individual rights.  Having been along to a public meeting to listen to what David Seymour had to say, I am horrified to see the direction ACT has headed.

Firstly, to hear him describe a tax cut as “crazy”.  Kwasi Kwarteng is a very sound Conservative politician who wanted to make it clear that the UK is open for business so dropped the punitive top rate of 45% on the pound.  Seymour did not like that. When you consider that British earners also pay 12% National Insurance on top of their income, every right-thinking person should support tax reduction.  To be fair the argument is that it should not be funded by deficit but Reagan knew he needed a growing economy and did not want to penalize people for success.  It was a booby trap left by Brown at the end of his reign and should have gone years ago.

Secondly, I asked him about Ardern’s speech at the UN and her proposal to clamp down on free speech. I expressed disappointment that he did not stand up for the rights of the anti mandate protestors, as Rodney Hide did and asked how he was going to win my vote back.  Seymour waffled about some of them being not nice people and stopped the people of Wellington going about their business.  Never mind that the protestors were on public land and deserved to be listened to. He dismissed the question as being the path to a 2% vote. Never mind that 30% of the population are anti mandate and nobody trusts Winston First.

On the third element I thought he was pandering to an elderly NIMBY audience by describing the Medium Density Residential Scheme (MDRS) as the 3 (houses) and 3 (stories) right to build as being “crazy”. So, I followed up after the meeting with him directly and also looked online.  It turns out ACT, David Seymour and Brooke Van Velden are TO THE LEFT of Labour and the Greens in standing up for the rights of property owners. This is one area where Labour and the Greens have worked in a bi partisan way to deliver good long-term policy, but ACT oppose MDRS.

“It could mean floor to ceiling windows on the third floor looking into your living room, with no thought for existing homeowners.” 

“The alternative is that we’ll get sewage in the streets…”

Scaremongering shite of the worst kind. There are rules for height to boundary. Councils take a long term approach to Infrastructure, as they should. They can predict increased demand and if, like Wellington, they have under invested then that should not affect the rights of property owners.

MDRS is using the power of the market by increasing the supply of land in built up areas through increased density.  Entirely sensible policy.  Europe encourage much more dense housing and it is far more preferable to intensify housing in built up areas than to keep building over green space.

I happen to know something about the MDRS and it is a great thing.  It allows property owners more certainty about being able to develop more densely instead of being subject to discretion of council.

Seymour says it is all about infrastructure and the fact there are monopoly providers of infrastructure.  Perhaps he has not heard of the development contribution which is about $20,000 to build a housing unit in Auckland as well as an additional charge of about $15,000 for Water and wastewater infrastructure.  Infrastructure is being funded by levies on new housing units.  It takes decades to make a difference but the funding policy is right.  Gains go to developers so a levy on new build is simply user pays.  The ACT policy of 50% of GST going to local councils is not a bad policy but should be in addition to MDFRS, not instead of.  Aucklands latest Unitary plan has plenty of exceptions to the MDRS, taking discretion for permit back into council hands.

Auckland property building is proceeding at a huge pace compared to 20 years ago and I assume private owners in other regions are also providing new housing. The state houses in Glen Innes, Pt England etc are all being replaced by townhouses and multiple units. I know of a specific example where 1 ex state house is being replaced by 7 town houses. I compare that to the situation 20 years ago with a similar size piece of land where I had to buy the back 3rd of the neighbouring section and use the back third of my section to add one more unit.

Look at this graph from Auckland council showing an increase from under 5000 units to over 20,000 units per month in the last 12 years.  Kiwibuild has been incompetent in providing low-cost housing but a change of policy has allowed private industry to step into the breach.

Auckland Building Consents by month

I will send this note to ACT and am curious to see what response, if any, it evokes.  One of the bloggers here is pro ACT so I am curious to see what he thinks of the ACT lurch to the establishment authoritarian left. It seems more about appealing to the older ex Winston first voter than having principles.

ACT still won’t get my vote.


Written by Whiskey&Pie

October 4, 2022 at 8:59 pm

21 Responses

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  1. Well you can see my voting history here at The 80/20 Purity Rule and…. I really don’t know who I’ll vote for in 2023 but it will probably be ACT because we can’t risk having this utterly useless shower – the worst government of my lifetime – in power any longer. And is that not always the way; the least worst option?

    But yeah, ACT pretty much lost me with the caving on the C-19 stuff, having raised my hopes with a doomed, but principled objection to the new gun laws.

    I’ll vote, but with little hope.

    Tom Hunter

    October 4, 2022 at 10:09 pm

  2. Some of these issues are complex and can’t be condensed down to soundbites. Voters from all walks of life are anxious about the Medium Density Residential Scheme when developers buy multiple sections to build townhouses overlooking their property. There are construction noise issues and damage to footpaths that cause inconvenience and irritation to pedestrians. They also wonder if existing (often 60+ year old) water mains and sewage infrastructure will be able to cope.
    They also are anxious as to whether the new townhouses will be inhabited by owner-occupiers or tenants.
    I suggest that “standing up for the rights of property owners” is a conservative stance. Leftists would simply chuck you out of your property and give it to someone more deserving.


    October 4, 2022 at 11:07 pm

    • ” Leftists would simply chuck you out of your property and give it to someone more deserving.” – That is my point. They passed a law that brought the power of the market to bear. ACT opposes that. They are not throwing people out of property.


      October 5, 2022 at 8:06 am

  3. I’ve head David speak more eloquently on why he’s against the MDRS, To start all the infil housing has already happened in the leafy suburbs. And the proposal is a pat best a band aid over the problem that is the RMA. We actually need major reform there and with local bodies.

    The MDRS is only papering over the fault lines.
    Mind you I’m in the same camp as you Nick K and Tom. Long term Act supporter, gutted that David didn’t take a more principled approach with the protesters and the mandates. I’m not sure who I will vote for next year.


    October 5, 2022 at 4:50 am

  4. I’ll reply to this only because you are a new contributer to the blog.
    I was in the ACT party and helped them out in the last election. Since then, they took the blue pill with regards to covid.
    He wanted to mandate vaccines, and vaccinate kids for no good reason.
    He even wanted to bypass medsafe to do this.
    I was at the Wellington protest, so I know what it was like, first hand.
    As for gun control, David picked up a lot of votes with that policy and some of their MP’s are from the gun crowd.
    David stated recently at a meeting that He’s not going to do anything about guns at all.
    As for where I’m voting (if I do), it wont be with any party that refused to talk to the Wellington protest.


    October 5, 2022 at 4:53 am

    • “He wanted to mandate vaccines, and vaccinate kids for no good reason.”

      Totally agree the idiots and National were a total disgrace.
      The idiot Seymour for once and for all put to rest the notion that ACT are a “pro free choice, pro individual rights” party.
      Just another party of left leaning control freaks. The don’t deserve any ones vote that’s for sure.

      Old Curmudgeon

      October 5, 2022 at 7:27 am

  5. Simple concerns for about intensification:

    Councils seem hell bent on approving 3 or 4 storey densely packed housing with no off street parking. Thou Shall Take The Bus! Yeah Right. May work in the inner city but in the burbs where i live thats a nightmare for transporting kids to sport and the weekly shop….
    The lack of off street will lead to tension over on street parking… That could get ugly

    Knock down 2 quarter arce section single dwellings. Throw up as many 3 storey town houses in the same footprint. Result people living on top of each other and inevitable complaints about noise. You have work at 630am and the neighbour is blasting Metallica or Gangsta Rap at 230am…. You aint going to stay calm about that for long. Noise Control Officers wont cope.. End result will be tension….

    Storm Water
    More infill.. More immediate run off as gardens and lawns, those great sponges acting as water run off control, are built over.
    Being down stream on watercourses both natural and man made will get difficult. Flooding will get worse

    Ovetall intensification is great for developers but for a lot of kiwis the section for the kids to play on is the ideal.

    Apartments, town houses with little to no outdoor area suit some vety well. But there will be a lot of people in crammed in housing who will be there under duress…

    I predict that slums will develop over time in Taita, Wainuiomata, Waitangarua, and equivalent suburbs in Auckland as first home buyers move on to better as incomes improve and the landlords move in…..

    I also predict an up tick in violence as tension over noise and parking bubbled up over time.


    October 5, 2022 at 5:55 am

    • Overall intensification is great for developers but for a lot of kiwis the section for the kids to play on is the ideal.

      I think that’s the key aspect. It’s New Zealand and if I’d wanted to raise my kids without stuff like that I could have stayed in Chicago earning vastly more money. Why come back to NZ for “densified” living at far lower salaries and wages?

      Of course if we’re appealing to more Philipino nurses and other immigrants needed to do the jobs we will no longer do, the offer of better housing and higher wages will sound great.

      Tom Hunter

      October 5, 2022 at 7:00 am

  6. Helpful to tell us who will get your vote, Whiskey. Voters need to choose a broad direction and vote accordingly. Then work with your chosen party to knock off those perceived rough edges. Single issue voting is not the way to go.


    October 5, 2022 at 6:45 am

  7. paranormal – ” To start all the infill housing has already happened in the leafy suburbs.” That is bs. I know of a proposal in a “leafy” Auckland suburb that could pass planning to put 26 units onto a site that currently contains 2 housing units.
    trevs elbow – you raise a number of community issues. As I noted levies are made on the developer
    Tom “Why come back to NZ for “densified” living at far lower salaries and wages?” – The real issue faced at present is that the multiple of house price to median income is far beyond the capability of a young person to buy a home.
    What all of you are focusing on are (and ACT) the problems of intensification rather than economics 101 which is supply and demand. MDRS helps to solve the problem by increasing the supply rather than pissing around at the edges and wringing hands when the price of an entry home remains unaffordable.


    October 5, 2022 at 8:14 am

    • Sorry W&P, the MDRS is not going to solve the wage to house price ratio. True reform of the RMA will.


      October 5, 2022 at 12:36 pm

  8. I was an active ACT member about 20 years ago. My enthusiasm for them began to sour with Catherine Judd and her “ACT – The Liberal Party” experiment. Before long, we weren’t talking small government, free markets, personal responsibility, it was abortion on demand, sodomy, euthanasia and drugs . . . all those talisman irrelevancies the Libertarianz used to obsess over.

    Porky Roebuck

    October 5, 2022 at 8:34 am

  9. cassandra – That is a very good question. There are a number of commenters (at least 4 so far) above who are in the same position.
    Winston met the protestors, but he is the one responsible for placing Ardern in power. Is forgiveness possible? No.
    Luxon was equally pathetic on the subject of meeting protestors, but I expected that, and Seymour was even worse on mandates as OC noted above. I hear from a well-placed friend that he visited Britain purely to see Katherine Birbalsingh and her school. For those of you that don’t know she is the best educator in the world.
    Purely on that he gets some brownie points.

    TOP has an interesting tax policy and New Conservatives look interesting, but I fear that delving more deeply would horrify me.

    I understand why Seymour is rising in vote share. He is taking the easy option of cannibalising the National vote. He probably also has his eye on former Winston voters who could never vote National. It is easy for people to dismiss the mainstream of National/Labour and choose a party on the fringe. The Greens have managed to hang onto their principles and get some power. Why can’t ACT?

    There is no party coherently standing up for classic liberal values. As noted, the most important thing is to get rid of this shower.
    So, I wander in the political wilderness for now.


    October 5, 2022 at 8:37 am

  10. I have voted ACT since it came into existence with the exception of the Brash/Banks travesty.

    I will do so again next year – assuming the communist dictators allow a general election.

    Among the realistic parties on offer only ACT policy comes close to my right-wing liberal beliefs.

    That I don’t agree with some of ACT representatives views is part of living in a democratic society.

    The only thing that would make me rethink this would be if one of the other parties came out with a policy of a law change that would see every senior member of the current government flogged naked through city streets on a weekly basis.


    October 5, 2022 at 10:55 am

  11. Graph shown: dwelling consent numbers
    note attached to the table; “The total number of new dwellings consented in
    Auckland in the year ended July 2022 was
    21,743 (13% higher than year ended July
    2021, but similar to March 2022 onwards). ”
    Looks to me more like a graph of the accumulated consents as the year progresses,
    so the comment : “showing an increase from under 5000 units to over 20,000 units per month in the last 12 years. ” is suspect. It is not “per month”.
    My uptick to a Trev comment; and with Paranormal on this : “And the proposal is at best a band aid over the problem that is the RMA. We actually need major reform there and with local bodies.”
    As for voting; so far I stick with a protest vote for any minor party who can front an honorable candidate with antique values. With enough encouragement they may eventually become what tinman calls a “realistic party”. Gotta start somewhere.


    October 5, 2022 at 11:40 am

    • thanks walnutter my mistake. It is annual consents in the year to not per month.


      October 5, 2022 at 12:14 pm

  12. “the problem that is the RMA. We actually need major reform there and with local bodies.” – What do you mean? The reality is that it is a choice on a spectrum between council development consent being pure their discretion or ditch the RMA, adopt a Texan approach and allow development however the property owner chooses subject to Common law. In other words, MDRS approach of more building on steroids.


    October 5, 2022 at 12:17 pm

    • Where to start W&P. Let’s try a little history.

      As part of the Roger Douglas reforms, the RMA was originally devised as a permissive regime, where if what you wanted to do was not in the list where permits were required, you could have just got on with it. No permits required.

      After Lange had his cup of tea the RMA was rewritten by Palmer & Clarke to be a central planners wet dream. You now have a situation where councils slow everything down an make it far more expensive.

      For example I have been involved in an Auckland project to take an almost derelict building and repurpose it. We aren’t developers, we will be using the completed building. To get building consent for an $800k contract (including significant earthquake strengthening of the 50s building) we spent over $250k on various engineers reports, including sound and traffic.

      Most of the reports were a complete waste of money. It didn’t change what we were doing, it merely justified council granting a permit. It is so bad that when we finally get to CCC stage I will be alerting the Auditor General to some of the corrupt practices uncovered on our journey.

      Further there’s the inequity of the MUL within the RMA. Land on either side of an imaginary line on a map is valued completely differently.

      You talk about Texan regulation as if it’s a bad thing. Have a look at Houston. After Katrina over a 100,000 families moved there. Property values didn’t change. With our false scarcity created by the RMA we have a fraction of that immigration and it is driving our property values sky high.

      There’s a couple of key things for starters. The RMA is deeply flawed legislation, the cause of our unaffordable property.


      October 5, 2022 at 8:54 pm

  13. para. Texan regulation is a good thing, I merely stated it was on a spectrum, meaning from propensity for corruption where everything is the power of the bureaucrat to individual rights. When I built a house in NZ it took 14 months to get permission and less than 5 months to build and sell.

    I agree with you that RMA needs to change, substantially. But I also believe that MDRS is a strong step in the right direction. If developers don’t think their market requires car parking, and their buyers are happy not to have cars or to take their chances on the street with public parking then why should the state intervene.


    October 6, 2022 at 11:38 am

    • If developers don’t think their market requires car parking, and their buyers are happy not to have cars or to take their chances on the street with public parking then why should the state intervene.

      To protect the rights of the neighbours of the properties. Maybe the area was originally very quiet, and suddenly it is beset by a huge influx of people. Am having this happen around me right now.

      My house is old, needs work and we can’t cope already with the extra noise on the street at night. Apparently, there are now going to be townhouses built across the road. After living here relatively happily for 2 decades, am thinking we might have to move.

      If increased growth is done slowly, then people adjust over time. The issue seems to be more when the growth is sudden and dramatic.

      Lucia Maria

      October 6, 2022 at 11:49 am

      • The problem with the slow it down approach is that very little gets built, apart from over the top of productive grassland. It means our children cannot afford houses and so leave to go overseas or reduce their quality of life to pay for overpriced artificially scarce housing.


        October 6, 2022 at 12:47 pm

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