Taskforce the result of not having a solution

New Zealand needs more houses. Housing affordability for first-home buyers is the worst it’s been in six decades and this is largely driven by a lack of supply.
After presiding over one of the most spectacular public policy failures in New Zealand’s political history in Kiwibuild, Labour are now trying to figure out what they’ll do about the current pressing issue – a shortage of materials.
The truth is that plasterboard is a sandwich of plaster and cardboard. What first world, industrialised country gets itself into such a pickle? An overly bureaucratic one is the answer.
Despite the issue being present for months now, Labour’s solution has been to recently create a ‘plasterboard task force’, which we all know is just window-dressing for having no solution at all.
What does the Minister expect this taskforce to achieve that she and her entire department hasn’t been able to to date? The industry has been clear about what the issue is and they want the Government to solve it, not keep talking about it.
A recent report from Castalia found that regulatory barriers around materials are a large contributor to New Zealand’s woes, it says: “relaxing planning and consenting standards could both directly and indirectly resolve the issue of lacking competition and innovation in the building materials market.” and suggested streamlining the substitution process for approved products as a solution.
ACT’s proposal is for the Government to enact a Materials Equivalence Register, which would allow access to foreign approved substitute materials that can be used to build houses.
The reality is that excessive regulations are getting in the way of building houses and preventing competition in the market, this would help fix that – at least in the area of building materials.
How it would work: MBIE would be tasked with keeping a Materials Equivalence Register. They would initially focus on plasterboard substitutes for dry areas of buildings, e.g. not bathrooms, where the risk is lowest. A material could get on the register in one of two ways. The first way is that an applicant would apply to have a material deemed equivalent. That might be an importer or producer of an equivalent material. The second way is that MBIE would proactively assess Material Equivalents in foreign countries, starting with Australia, and deeming any products available there as equivalents.
Councils would then be required to accept Material Equivalency as a matter of course, if they refuse then consent is granted as of right. Councils would be absolved of liability for a decision to accept deemed Material Equivalent.
This is a practical solution that will provide better outcomes almost immediately. It will also lead to more competition and choice in the building materials market over time.
Kiwis shouldn’t have to wait for a taskforce to go away and deliberate before eventually coming to a conclusion and eventually provoking some action. Major party housing policy has followed a familiar pattern in recent years. Promise. Win. Fail. Apologise. Labour is now approaching the fourth and final stage.

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